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International students in awkward spot thanks to teachers' strike

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – The teachers’ strike is putting international students in an awkward spot.

Twenty international students have already withdrawn their enrolment from the Vancouver School District.

A little over 1,400 students, mostly from China, South Korea and Germany plunked down the $13,000 international tuition fee to attend school in Vancouver this school year.

Students have until the end of September to decide whether to withdraw and get half of their fees back.

Kurt Heinrich with the Vancouver School Board admits there could be more withdrawals. “The longer the job action goes on, the more challenging it will be to retain these students.”

But he is taking heart with how few have withdrawn so far.

“I think that shows the confidence these students have that they will eventually be in the classroom. It also shows the value we offer them. If it wasn’t a big deal, if they could go anywhere else, they would.”

Charles Ungerleider is a respected authority on BC’s education system — a professor at UBC and author of Failing Our Kids: How we are ruining our public schools.

He worries the lengthy labour dispute is catching the attention of parents overseas.

“The inability to get an agreement is damaging the reputation of an otherwise excellent school system. I’m concerned it will erode public confidence in public education in British Columbia and, for that matter, outside of British Columbia,” he tells News1130.

“We attract quite a large number of students internationally to BC schools because of their excellent reputation and I worry that the fact schools didn’t open [this week] will damage that reputation. It doesn’t affect the reality, they remain excellent schools, but reputation is often perceived as everything.

Heinrich points out the Vancouver School District already lost about $800,000 in revenue when summer school had to be cancelled.

The district has the highest international student enrolment in the province.