Teachers say new NDP government needs to clean up BC's offshore school program — here’s how
About 100 B.C.-certified teachers face expulsion from South Korea for allegedly having the wrong visas to work at B.C.-certified offshore schools.
Too little, too late for some teachers
“A week prior to the first teacher and principal being detained, Doug Lauson [an offshore school inspector contracted by the B.C. ministry of education] visited Korea and spent, as he claimed, an ‘entire day’ researching immigration issues. But at that point, it was already too late. The ministry should have already done its research on proper school licensure and immigration law before the beginning of the school year. And if the ministry had found that CBIS was violating the law, they could have refused to allow CBIS to keep its B.C. license and alerted all the teachers of the fact that CBIS was violating the law,” the teachers say in their email.
Following a report in the Globe and Mail this week, the ministry’s executive director of International Education and Independent Schools, Brian Jonker, broke what the CBIS teachers claim was a long silence despite several attempts on their part to get a response from him. They say that after months of cancelled meetings and being told to submit freedom of information requests to get answers to their questions, Jonker emailed them the following message on June 21:
“Dear CBIS teachers,
“Between May 3, 2017 and May 8, 2017 the Ministry of Education received confirmation from the former CBIS school that it had fulfilled its contractual obligations and written confirmation to the ministry of education by providing remuneration to impacted teachers up to and including June 2017 salary, as well as any supplements toward the cost of return travel within the contract. The ministry of education also received confirmation that this information was shared with teachers by the former school principal during the same time period.
“We are following-up to reconfirm with you that you have received both the final payment of your salary for the school year, as well as the contribution toward your travel out of the country.”
What’s in it for the inspectors?
The teachers allege in their email to me that B.C.-government contracted inspectors treat the B.C. offshore schools as "farms" to attract students to independent schools operating in B.C. and that many seem to be connected to the B.C. Federation of Independent Schools Association (FISA).
FISA’s president, Doug Lauson, is the former superintendent of the Catholic Independent Schools Vancouver Archdiocese. He travelled to Korea to inspect CBIS twice last spring and the teachers say he reassured them the “visa problems were insignificant.” Lauson did not respond to my requests for comment.
The teachers also cite the example of Kootenay Christian Academy principal Des McKay, who wrote in a school newsletter last fall that he was off to South Korea to inspect four schools and said “my goal is to build a network of offshore school contacts that can someday enrich and support the goals of KCA.” McKay did not respond to my questions about what he meant by that but also noted in the newsletter that he found doing the inspections “personally enriching.”
Enriching indeed. A source told me the contracts usually pay a rate of $600/day for the inspection team chair and $500 a day for others team members, plus $125 for incidentals plus $115 per diem for food. Airfare and accommodation are also provided. All inspection costs are paid by the schools.
My request to the Ministry of Education to confirm these numbers was not answered.
B.C.’s offshore school program has come under fire in the past for allegations of grade inflation and harassment of teachers and the potential damage being done to the credibility of B.C.’s “dogwood” diplomas and “superficial” inspections by the B.C. Ministry of Educations’ selected inspection teams.
It will be interesting to see what the Horgan government does to clean up this mess.