Sudbury, Ont. high school welcomes Chinese exchange students

Students and staff at a high school in Sudbury, Ont. welcomed a delegation of their counterparts from Shanghai, China to the northeastern Ontario city.

8 students, 2 teachers from Shanghai will be in the Nickel City for the next 2 weeks

Students and staff from Shanghai were welcomed by their counterparts at Sudbury's Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School on Thursday. (Samantha Samson / CBC)

Students and staff at a high school in Sudbury, Ont. welcomed a delegation of their counterparts from Shanghai, China to the northeastern Ontario city Thursday.

The exchange — which will see the eight Chinese students and two staff stay in Sudbury for two weeks — is part of the Rainbow District School Board's international program, which aims to market the northeast to students from abroad.

While there are financial benefits for the board in attracting international students to study full-time — board officials have said each student who enrolls pays around $12,500 per year in tuition — dollars and cents were not what had grade 10 Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School student Abbas Dedanwala excited about the current exchange.

"Asia is so different from what we see around here, especially in Sudbury which is mostly isolated from all the multiculturalism in Toronto," he said.

"For them as well, English is a second language there, so I think it'll be a really nice trade off and I think it's just going to be a fun time for both sides."
Yuan FangFang is the principal accompanying the Chinese students. (Samantha Samson / CBC)

Those sentiments were echoed by Yuan FangFang, the principal accompanying the Chinese students. Speaking through an interpreter, she said the trip is a chance for the teens to "know what the world looks like and learn about different cultures."

While they are here, the Chinese students and staff will attend classes, go on field trips and experience Ontario's public school system. Lo-Ellen Park school plans to send a group of students and staff to China later this year to complete the exchange.

International program faces controversy

While students, staff and board officials have plenty to be excited about, the Rainbow Board's international program also has its share of critics, especially in light of the fact that board funds have been spent on the program, all while schools in the region are closing.

That's not a fair argument, said board trustee Dena Morrison on Thursday.  Morrison acknowledged the board has spent about $100,000 on the program, mainly to send representatives abroad to make necessary connections.

With some international students from places like Mexico, China and Vietnam studying in the northeast, the board is starting to see a return on that investment, Morrison said, adding that the trips overseas are crucial.

"When you're asking parents from the other side of the world to send their precious child over to you to take care of, they want to know that they're going to a good place and that they're going to be safe."

Morrison said that the board has made up all but about $10,000 of that six-figure sum.

School boards developing international student programs is part of a mandate set out by the province in May 2015.