For junior learners seeking an adventure while progressing their language skills, Canada is an obvious choice. “Canada offers a high standard of living and a world-class education system,” attests Pamela Smith at Victoria International High School Programs in Victoria, BC. Meanwhile, Linda Pagliaroli at Omnicom School of Languages in Calgary, AB, argues, “A strong ESL educational sector coupled with safety and quality of life is what makes Canada a prime destination for students to perfect their English.”
Safety and reassurance for parents was an attribute readily highlighted by Helen Clark, Vice President at Study Abroad Canada Language Institute (Sacli), situated on Prince Edward Island. “Our province has the lowest crime rate in Canada,” she advises, and with “a population of 35,000 in our capital city, Charlottetown, everybody knows each other”. Another attraction of the location, Clark adds, is that beaches are only a 15-minute drive in any direction from the school. Naturally, the typical activities on junior programmes here are water themed, including deep sea fishing, canoeing and kayaking.
The Rocky Mountains is another perfect destination for junior study, relates Derek Keet at Banff Education Centre in Banff, AB. “We are in a beautiful area, our homestay families are known as being very welcoming and we are in a very safe community,” assures Keet. In one of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations, activities including white water rafting, horse back riding, nature hikes and helicopter rides mean students can easily connect with the great outdoors.
Canada’s major cities also make adventurous locations, as Mara Muller at ILSC Education Group, which has schools in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal for French language programmes explains, “Because activities are such an important focus of our youth programmes, our Canadian locations provide an ideal setting, with a wide variety of activity options.” Muller goes on to list some of the options: “In Vancouver, we have strong summer and winter youth programmes. In summer, youth students can enjoy indoor rock climbing, waterslides, beach activities, exploring the Vancouver Aquarium, Stanley Park and more. In winter, the programme also includes trips to Whistler for skiing or snowboarding.”
For Pagliaroli, integrating academic, social and cultural aspects into programmes is key for Omnicom’s centres in Toronto and Calgary. “Young learners have one thing in common: curiosity and an eagerness to explore.” She believes the success of Omnicom’s courses is owed to students’ ability to “study English in a safe and fun environment while living with Canadian families, interacting with peers and getting familiar with Canadian life”.
The Victoria International High School Programs, offered by Greater Victoria School District #61, provide three course types in a location “known for its year-round moderate climate [and] natural beauty”, according to Smith. “Our Short-Term High School Experience Program is offered during the school year, and our Camp Victoria ESL Summer Program is available during July and August. We also deliver custom ESL Group Study Tours, year round,” she explains. To cover demand, Smith advises they now have a staff member responsible for coordinating activities for international students, and these typically include ski trips to Whistler and a Rocky Mountain tour. “In the last few years, we’ve experienced an increased demand for short-term group programmes with full integration into our schools, and added-on weekend activities,” she advises.
While most of the schools questioned for this article reported stable markets, Muller confirmed that ILSC has noticed more individual registrations recently. Meanwhile, in class, Clark notes an increasing interest among junior students in more experiential learning, with morning classes focused on the afternoon activities, providing students with the language and vocabulary they will use.
Although there was some variation in reliable source countries, Asia and Latin America were consistently cited. For Sacli, Clark lists Japan, Korea, China and Russia as their key markets. Muller notes a divergence in ILSC’s markets with group bookings from Mexico, Spain, Italy and Thailand, and individual enrolments from central Europe.