Category Archives: Location

Seeking Russian Agents? Here’s a good one.

The waters required to navigate while applying to an independent school, especially for an international student can be tricky. You can hear horror stories about bad agents and then really great stories about agents who really help their clients find, apply, enrol and even travel to see schools.

This past Fall I travelled to Ukraine and Russia with an agency called IQ Consultancy. We have worked with other agents in Russia and Ukraine to be clear, so this is not a unique endorsement of IQ Consultancy. On this trip, we travelled to Kiev, Novosibirsk, St. Petersburg, Ufa, and Moscow and met with many families.

In Russia, for the most part since the collapse of the Soviet Union, we are dealing with the first generation of students studying abroad and families traveling more widely than the borders of their former state. Many of the students I met spoke English quite well, however, their parents did not. This is where agencies in this part of the world really help their ‘parent’ clients navigate the tricky waters. They translate for them and most importantly, advise on individual schools in different countries based on their clients’ needs. As more and more Russian students are studying abroad, we are hearing from Russian families that there are too many Russian students in some UK and Swiss schools. A good agent can help a family avoid disappointment upon arrival at a school and help them find the right ‘fit’ for their clients.

If you are looking for an agent, in any country, make sure that you ask the agency how many students they have placed in university preparatory boarding schools, making the distinction between schools that have local students as well and not just students coming from abroad. Ask what services the agency is going to provide to you, will they assess your needs, recommend options, help you apply, help with study permits and study permit renewals? What services are free and what services carry an additional fee? Finally, ask if someone from the company has visited the school. Oftentimes, frontline staff may not have visited a school personally, but they rely on another member of the company who has. Some agencies have policies that they will not place a student in a school unless someone from the agency has visited the school. This is a good thing.

IQ Consultancy staff members have visited LCS on three separate occasions. They understand our school, our education system and the small number of Russian speakers within our community. They get the LCS difference and will help you understand what makes us unique and a special option for the right student and family.

What is the difference between an ‘educational agent’ and an ‘educational consultant’?

Many families, once they have decided to pursue a boarding education or even just a short term educational experience abroad, turn to a local contact to help them find the right opportunity. Let’s face it, if you are in a foreign country or even a major city, and even if language isn’t an issue, finding a school that is appropriate to your child’s wants and needs is a daunting task. Often times, it is easier to have someone who deals with schools and education opportunities on a daily basis give you a hand. There are two options available to most families: consult an agent or hire an educational consultant. Like any decision to engage someone for advice, paid or otherwise, it is best to do a little homework before making your choice.

Educational Consultants are generally professionals who charge a family a fee for service which usually includes interviews, learning and personality assessments (sometimes a complete psycho educational assessment which may or may not include a diagnosis of a learning difference), a list of recommended schools to match the needs/wants of the student/family, facilitating visits to a short list of schools, and then assistance in preparing for applications, tests, and interviews. Educational Consultants work for a family and therefore are considered to be impartial because they are hired by the family to help them with their needs and they do not accept a commission from the school where a student earns a space. Educational Consultants may belong to a professional organization such as the Independent Educational Consultants Association . IECA consultants are available to help with college advising, day and boarding advising, learning disability advising and therapeutic advising.

Educational Agents are found throughout the world and collect a commission from education providers (schools, colleges, language programs) for each student they place in a school, on a course or program. Like a travel agent, they sell ‘seats’ and can book you on almost any course. In fact, much of the industry has developed out of the sector of the travel industry that caters to those looking for an educational ‘trip’ or experience. If price is your biggest factor in choosing an opportunity, an agent can counsel you on a wide variety of options varying in location, length of stay, and your budget. The biggest distinction between a good agency and a bad one is the training of their workforce. Some agents or agencies specialize in boarding school programs and some rarely place students in boarding schools in favour of less expensive public school programs that do not have the academic requirements of independent schools. Apart from charging much less, public schools often offer shorter and single semester stays as well.

‘Private’ schools on the internet can be deceiving as anyone can design a pretty website or have a catchy slogan, you need first hand knowledge through an educational consultant, or an agent if you cannot visit a school yourself. In looking for a recommendation, try to ask your agent to put you in touch with a representative from within their agency who has visited the school you wish to attend. Agencies that can provide first hand knowledge or testimonial from other clients they have placed in a program are your best bet for finding the right program or school for you. If the agency is collecting a ‘commission’ from a school, then they are in essence working for the school. However, they also see themselves as representing the interests of their student and family ‘clients’ as most educational institutions such as LCS reserve the right to accept or deny their students. Many consultants and agents also help with study permits, guardians, travel arrangements and may continue to represent the parents to the school. Who an agent truly represents in the market (family or school) can be a grey area, therefore it is best to run a few scenarios past your agency to see how ‘independent’ their recommendation of a program might be (for-profit private schools often offer bonuses to agents after a certain number of weeks or programs have been sold).

LCS works with Educational Consultants and Educational Agents from around the world. As we reserve the right to accept or deny all of our students based on their applications (and their understanding of our school), we do not perceive a conflict with paying a commission to an agent for a student we have accepted in an area of the world that a) prefers to seek advice locally, and b) where we do not have an ongoing presence or cannot travel to recruit on a regular basis. We see agents and consultants as an extension of our reach to promote the value of a truly world class Canadian education at LCS.

In our experience, educational consultants and educational agents can be very helpful partners to families (especially those with limited English), in finding and enrolling their children at LCS. In some countries however, e.g. China, we do not pay a commission, we work with Educational Agents who may charge a client family a premium for their work in placing a student at LCS. In this case, they are working very much like an educational consultant, helping and coaching their families to gain a space in a very competitive environment.

Educational Consultant Contacts (I apologize for this list requiring scrolling)

Japan

EDICM Tokyo

Turkey

Erka Group Istanbul

USA

IECA Directory

Educational Agency Contacts

Brazil

BIL Intercâmbios

CI 

ICI Intercâmbio

IE

China

Can-Achieve

EGI

JJL

Colombia

Estuviaje

Grasshopper International

Teducamos

Germany

LearnOut

Töchter und Söhne

Japan

ISES

ALFA-AC

Korea

EdComCanada

Mexico

EH Global

One-to-One

Viajes Interlag

Romania

World Education

Russia

IQ Consultancy

Spain

ASTEX

Foreign Study League

RedLeaf

Thailand

Born to Consult

Turkey

Biltur Educational Travel Agent

LMK Consulting

Vietnam

Canadian Education International

Delta Education Advisory

EAA Edulink

In Praise of Small Senior Elementary Schools

As a consultant and a Director of Enrollment I have encountered the problem of parents second guessing the value of a small school for their children as they approach the senior elementary years.

It is usually a question of balancing a tween’s social needs with their educational needs. Socially, senior elementary students are looking for more activities like dances and more athletic opportunities, things smaller schools can struggle with or are unable to provide. Yet Grade 7 and 8 students are not quite ready to be mainstreamed with Grade 11 and 12 students. Academically, smaller schools generally produce students well prepared for secondary school because they have had all important teacher time in an environment appropriate to their age level. They also have more opportunities to begin experiencing leadership roles as the ‘senior’ students in a small school.

Parent anxiety about their child gaining entry to selective secondary schools can be the primary reason for leaving the benefits inherent in a small senior elementary program. If a private secondary school offers an elementary program that feeds the high school, they will want to take students as soon as possible to secure their secondary enrolment. This has made it difficult for many small schools I have worked with as the high schools siphon off students at Grades 5 and 7 or wherever they add a section of students to their enrolment.

Parents take a position earlier, not because they doubt their small school, but they are afraid of space scarcity at the Grade 9 entry level. In these instances, I suggest families contact the high school and ask about the typical profile of a student gaining entry at Grade 9 and ask about the projected number of spaces that will be available. A good number of our Grade 9 day students come from three small private elementary schools. Often, the Directors of the schools can give a family a good idea of whether their child is on a path to be admitted to a particular independent high school or whether they might be better to try to gain entrance to the school at Grade 5, 6 or 7 because they may not be strong enough for Grade 9 competition.

One of the indicators of the strength of a small school is the number of their ‘graduates’ who have gone on to selective entry high schools.

What about the sports and the dances? Ask, is the sports program at the bigger school better than you can find in your community for this age group? For the truly athletic, community athletics up until at least the varsity high school level are going to be essential for a student with college bound or greater aspirations. I have yet to meet the school Director who has solved the small school challenge of holding a dance with a dozen Grade 8 classmates that doesn’t feel like dancing with your sister or brother.