Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Chinese school challenges Ontario move to revoke credit-granting authority


Chinese school challenges Ontario move to revoke credit-granting authority


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Image result for Chinese school challenges Ontario move to revoke credit-granting authority
Image result for Chinese school challenges Ontario move to revoke credit-granting authority



A private school in Shanghai is fighting the Ontario government’s decision to terminate the academy’s ability to offer credits toward an Ontario Secondary School Diploma.
Canadian International Academy in Shanghai, China is one of 21 international schools operating under an agreement with the ministry to grant credits toward the OSSD. That agreement will be terminated as of July 14, Postmedia has learned.
All overseas schools are subject to regular compliance inspections to ensure each institution is keeping with ministry standards, and according to the ministry, CIA Shanghai is the first overseas private school to have its authority to grant Ontario credits revoked.
In April, the Ministry of Education dispatched a senior inspector to Shanghai on an unannounced inspection to investigate a raft of complaints levied by two former teachers, and a full report was filed to former Education Minister Liz Sandals. The inspection report has not yet been made public, and the ministry did not provide any rationale for revoking the school’s authority to grant Ontario high school credits. According to the ministry’s mandate, the government has no oversight to deal with incidents related to a school’s hiring and termination policies, and the authority to grant Ontario credits is based primarily upon the school’s compliance with ministry requirements for the structure of courses, the delivery of curriculum and evaluation strategies.
Two former teachers and the school’s former principal, each claiming they had been fired wrongfully, spoke to Postmedia and offered detailed allegations of students’ grades being inflated for a fee, courses running short of the ministry-mandated 110-hour minimum, and a shortage of qualified teachers – all of which would constitute violations of ministry regulations. A third teacher spoke to Postmedia with similar allegations, claiming he tendered his resignation after discovering school documents that appeared to contain the forged signatures of fellow teachers.
“The ministry recently notified the CIA, Shanghai that it was terminating the agreement effective July 14, 2016,” said Nicole McInerney, spokeswoman for incoming Education Minister Mitzie Hunter. “The ministry’s decision is now the subject of an Application for Judicial Review. As this matter is subject to litigation, it would be inappropriate to comment further. We remain committed to ensuring that the standard of instruction in courses leading to the OSSD is being delivered in compliance with ministry requirements including curriculum, assessment and evaluation policies.”
The applicants named in the Application for Judicial Review are the Canadian International Academy and its director Jennifer Xue. Lawyers for the applicants said it would be inappropriate to comment while the matter is before the courts.
“Other than to inform you that the Ministry of Education’s purported termination of its Agreement with the Canadian International Academy has given rise to an Application for Judicial Review, there is little else I can say. I am sure you fully appreciate our obligation to be respectful to and compliant with the judicial process,” said Xue’s senior legal counsel, Alan Wolfish.
“If and when circumstances permit, I would be pleased to offer a more comprehensive statement.”
According to the academy’s application for judicial review, filed in court in Toronto on June 27, school administrators believe the ministry made the decision to terminate the agreement “in bad faith. … The Ministry made the decision in haste with complete disregard for the educational best interests of the Academy’s students and graduates,” the document states. The application further alleges that the ministry breached the principles of procedural fairness by not providing CIA with a copy of the inspection report or an opportunity to respond, and claims there was apparent or actual bias on behalf of the ministry inspector.
According to the court filing, the ministry inspector raised several concerns during a visit on April 14 – one that lasted less than four hours – and the decision to terminate the agreement with the school was based upon the absence of a qualified on-site principal, the school falling short of the required complement of Ontario-certified teachers, and “an alleged failure by the Academy to notify the Ministry of any material changes in the operation of the Academy.”
The applicant asserts that the school has since hired an Ontario-qualified principal, and was “aggressively recruiting” Ontario-qualified teachers for the upcoming academic year.
The school, which has been in operation since 2004, noted it had passed each previous inspection, in 2009-10, 2011-12 and 2013-14.
The 2013-2014 inspection report, produced after the ministry’s last visit in April 2014, states that the inspector allowed the school to retain its authority to grant OSSD credits, but flagged the school for not having an on-site principal, and demanded the school “act immediately” to correct the issue. According to the court filing, CIA hired an Ontario-qualified principal who would assume those duties two years later on April 21, 2016.
The school’s director of education, Jim Sebastian, previously spent 15 years working for the Ministry of Education as a private school inspector. In a previous interview with Postmedia, Sebastian acknowledged the school at times employed a “convoluted” strategy to comply with Ontario rules regarding the complement of qualified teachers. However, he denied any wrongdoing in regard to the number of qualified teachers or shortened course hours, and denied staff were fired wrongfully.
Concerns over “credit integrity” – whether a student actually earns the credits granted toward his or her diploma – surfaced in 2013 in a scathing auditor-general’s report that found “significant concerns” at 100 accredited private schools within Ontario. While the AG report covers more than 1,000 registered private schools within the province, neither CIA, nor any of the 21 overseas schools accredited to offer Ontario high school credits, were included in the audit. The AG report found that Ontario “has one of the least regulated private school sectors in Canada,” and found numerous violations similar to the allegations brought forward by former employees of Shanghai’s Canadian International Academy.
The AG also found numerous Ontario private schools were operating additional campuses, and in 2014, the ministry amended its policy to disallow the operation of additional locations by credit-granting schools.
CIA operated two campuses – one at Baise and another at Wen Lai – and recently opened a third campus in Shanghai’s Pudong district.
The expansion was aided by a $25-million deal between the school and a Chinese media conglomerate – a signing that was overseen by Premier Kathleen Wynne on her trade mission to China in November. The apparent endorsement from the Premier has featured prominently in CIA marketing, and the deal was heralded as one of several examples of the fruitful trade partnership between China and Ontario by the Premier’s office.
According to court filings on behalf of CIA, the school now believes that deal – with CIA planning to build one of the city’s largest private schools on a 100-acre campus – is now in jeopardy following the ministry’s decision. The document states the approximate $100-million investment by the school’s primary partner, Shanghai United Media Group, “will have been wasted.”
The school, its students and its graduates will also suffer “irreparable harm” if the ministry terminates its agreement, according to the court document.
“The Academy will likely close as its authority to grant OSSD credits is its main attraction to Chinese students who wish to pursue post-secondary education in Canada,” the document states.
The school contends its 450 students currently enrolled for the upcoming academic year “will be deprived of the opportunity to earn OSSD credits… and may be unable to secure a placement in a (different) private school in China with authority to grant OSSD credits.”
CIA graduates applying to post-secondary institutions in Canada “may have their prospects for admission prejudiced… (and) alumni’s employment prospects may be adversely affected.”
According to the court filing, approximately 850 CIA graduates have pursued post-secondary education in Ontario over the past 12 years.
The Ministry has not yet filed responding material and none of the allegations made in the Application for Judicial Review have been proven in court.
In 2012, concerns over credit integrity prompted a swift review by B.C. lawmakers when overseas teachers detailed similar allegations in a Vancouver Sun report.
Like Ontario, B.C. has long been a player in the lucrative market of international private schools, and its Education Ministry oversees 34 offshore schools, including 20 in China alone.
The B.C. government announced a fullscale review of its offshore private schools in early 2013, and made sweeping policy changes, with Education Minister Don McRae telling Postmedia the changes were necessary to ensure the province maintains its reputation for excellent education, and that its high school diploma was respected.
Ontario has announced no such plans for a review of its offshore private schools.