British Columbia releases K-12 homestay guidelines

02 September, 2015

The Canadian province of British Columbia (BC) has published homestay guidelines covering international students in the K-12 secondary school sector, outlining the responsibilities of schools, homestay providers, host families and agents.

Peter Fassbender, MLA of Surrey-Fleetwood, speaking at the launch of British Columbia's International Student Homestay Guidelines. Credit - BC Ministry of Education

The new guidelines, unveiled at a special event at the Surrey school district last week, are the first such provincial-wide document in Canada, and have been developed by a working group of Ministry of Education representatives, school districts and independent schools to ensure consistency across the sector.

Mike Bernier, BC Minister of Education, said at the ceremony, “The launch of the K-12 International Student Homestay Guidelines continues BC’s commitment to international education. I am confident school districts will use the guidelines to positively improve their homestay programmes.”

In terms of guidelines for agents, the document states agents should: “Provide support to international student programmes, homestay programme providers and international students and their families, particularly in regard to communicating with the parent/guardian if and when requested by the homestay programme provider or the international student programme.”

The homestay provider responsibilities include: maintaining a screening process for families and student to ensure suitability; gathering appropriate and up-to-date personal records; developing a comprehensive training programme; providing international students with access to somebody who speaks their primary language; and developing reference manuals for families and students.

The Ministry states that no more than two students should be placed with a family at any time and that concurrent adult and child placements should be avoided.

The document also outlines that in cases where agents arrange the homestay, they would be considered as a homestay provider and should therefore adhere to the provider guidelines.

Elsewhere, the guideline booklet has sections stipulating the responsibilities of international student programmes, host families, international students and their parents/guardians.

The Ministry of Education said that there were almost 17,000 international students in BC’s K-12 system in 2014/15, contributing an estimated CAN$400 million (US$302 million) to the local economy.

Shawn Wilson, Chair of Surrey Board of Education, said, “It’s a very big step for families to take in pursuing education abroad for their child and we want our clients’ experience to be the best it can, not just academically, but the life experience. Having thoughtful guidelines for homestays supports that goal, and I hope may also encourage families to consider being a host.”

The full guideline document is available here

Matthew Knott
News Editor


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