MORE than 1,000 high school students turned out last Friday for the first of two Canadian school fairs at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston.
The mostly fifth and sixth form students got an opportunity to meet with representatives of 23 Canadian universities and colleges to learn more about the offerings of the respective institutions. The fair also facilitated on-spot applications to the institutions.
The second fair was held Monday at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa in Montego Bay, St James.
The event, which was in its second year, was organised by Edu-Canada. It formed part of the 2012 Caribbean Regional Education Tour sponsored by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and hosted by Canadian Missions throughout the Caribbean.
Apart from Jamaica, the study tour will visit five other Caribbean islands — Antigua, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, St Lucia, and The Bahamas — this month.
Senior Trade Commissioner at Canadian High Commission, Rick McElrea, said the aim of the event was to promote Canadian education to Jamaican students and to help them and their parents make informed choices about their education.
Added to that he said, "Jamaicans are good students and they do well in our schools, that's why we have 23 schools here trying to recruit [them]... it is good for the schools and it is good for the students."
Canada, he said, offers "world-class education as it is recognised as being in the top three education destinations worldwide".
"Its degrees are well recognised worldwide and marketable. And as far as the lifestyle goes, Canada is a very safe place to live, with a lot of sport and it is a country of beauty," McElrea added.
Many students who attended Friday's fair said they found the sessions informative, but had reservations about the costs of the programmes.
"I would like to study in Canada because based on my research, Canada is more dominant in construction, but money is really a big problem because of the cost of the programmes," said Edwin Allen High student Derron Grasfield, who wants to pursue a career in construction engineering.
His classmate Roshique Richards, who plans to do chemical science, echoed similar sentiments. "I was really impressed with the presentations and many different programmes that the schools are offering, but the financing is a drawback," she said.
Yasmin Chung, senior business development officer at the Canadian High Commission, said education on a whole is costly and recommended that students pursue two-year programmes and try to find work on the campuses. Additionally, she said most of the schools offer grants.
Nelson Melgar — international recruiter from Fanshawe College in Ontario — said the college would be thrilled to have more Jamaicans among its student population. The college currently has about 30 Jamaican students.
"I admire the Jamaican students. They are hardworking and smart, and they are doing great. They are in the 90 per cent [grade] so I am delighted to have them," said Melgar, whose institution offers over 100 degree programmes mostly in manufacturing, business and health.
Meanwhile, Canadian education specialist Antonn Brown said the students should also consider studying in Canada if they plan on relocating there.
"Canada is a great country but it is underpopulated, so what they are doing is trying to get young, educated people to live there. So, if you study in Canada you have a priority in being able to become a citizen afterward," said Brown, who served as the official representative for several of the institutions, including Humber and Centennial.
Together the two schools offer about 300 programmes, with business, hospitality, social work, early childhood education and computer technology being most popular, Brown said.