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February 2017

Quebec school boards scandal

Pedro Szekely Montreal Canada

Authorities in Quebec, Canada have announced investigations into two English school boards following press reports of international students scammed by their agents. Management of both the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) and the Lester B. Pearson School Board, also in Montreal, have denied any wrongdoing.

In recent years, restrictions on local children allowed to study at English-medium schools in the francophone province have led to school boards actively recruiting overseas.

EMSB hit headlines in the Korean press after students sent on vocational training programmes partially funded by Gyeongi provincial government complained they didn’t receive promised work visas, and many found themselves working illegally for below minimum wage. The students had been recruited through the website EMSBKorea, set up by a Korean agent who worked with the board. But the students did not attend an EMBS course and were instead enrolled at private schools, EMSB chair Angela Mancini told CBA Canada. The board has now cut links with the agency.

The Lester B. Pearson School Board has discovered that a ‘privately owned enterprise’ is using its name to receive fees from would-be students. A firm named LBP Vocational College was registered in Quebec in January 2014 by Naveen Kolan, according to broadcaster CBC. A person of the same name is the founder of Edu Edge Inc., an international education marketing service that signed an agreement with the Lester B. Pearson School Board in 2012 to recruit students from India, CBC research suggests. The school board has placed the following notice on its website: ‘Please note that all tuition fees/transfers need to be paid ONLY to “Lester B. Pearson School Board”. The name “LBP Vocational College” refers to a privately owned enterprise with no affiliation to the Lester B. Pearson School Board, so tuitions paid to this entity ARE NOT payments made to the school board.’

Following allegations from an Indian student of false promises made by Edu Edge, director Narveen Kolan put the blame on sub-agents and said the company had told agents to remove misleading statements from websites after Edu Edge had been made aware of them. A third school board, Sir Wilfred Laurier, has also cancelled its partnership with Edu Edge shortly after discovering a private company, SWL Vocation College, had been set up by Naveen Kolan in June last year, shortly before the board cancelled its partnership with agency Edu Edge Inc. ‘We had not authorised that, nor were we aware,’ board chair Jennifer Maccarone told CBC. ‘We did request that they remove this and that they cancel it.’ Research by CBC found the company had not been dissolved. There are no investigations into Sir Wilfred Laurier by the Quebec authorities.

Pic courtesy: Pedro Szekely

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