Canada and Sri Lanka cooperate in new education centre

York University has teamed up with Asian Management Services (AMS), an established management and financial consulting practice in Sri Lanka, to create the Centre for Canadian Academic and Professional Services in Colombo.

Left: The city of Colombo

The centre, located in a newly renovated building close to the Canadian High Commission, will provide a range of services that will make it easier for Sri Lankan residents to access Canadian postsecondary education opportunities.

In 2001, AMS established an immigration-consulting practice under the direction of Michael R. Couture, a former trade adviser with the Canadian High Commission and long-time resident of Sri Lanka. Couture soon expanded the practice to encompass student migration, setting out to address a serious lack of information and guidance for Sri Lankan students who wished to pursue higher education in Canada, including at York.

“AMS approached York University last summer with a view to adding educational programming to their information and counselling services,” explained Sheila Embleton, York’s vice-president academic.

Right: Sheila Embleton

“For the many highly educated Sri Lankans who cannot find a university place within Sri Lanka, there are ready conduits to help them access postsecondary education in the UK and the US. However, until the opening of this centre, no such provision for Canadian institutions has existed. York is pleased to be taking the lead in filling this gap,” she said.

The centre includes classrooms that will be used to help students acquire the academic English skills they will need for admission to a Canadian institution and a fully-equipped multimedia lab to ensure that their computer and information literacy skills are up to the expected level. The multimedia lab will also enable the centre to offer distance learning opportunities via the Internet. Within a year, the centre hopes to be offering additional programs to local professionals which will focus on English language development within a specific field of work.

“I was most impressed with the comprehensive and successful programs offered by the York University English Language Institute (YUELI) to help international students with university preparation and professional English,” added Couture. “Over the past year, AMS and York have reached an agreement whereby YUELI programs will be offered on site at the centre in Colombo with strict quality control mechanisms in place to keep the standards the same.”

These programs will complement the other services that AMS currently offers. Such services include: test preparation; information and advice on selecting a Canadian postsecondary institution; preliminary assessment of academic background; assistance in applying to postsecondary institutions; financial planning and access to scholarships; and expediting visa applications.

“As an academic with a long-term interest in Sri Lanka, I applaud this initiative,” commented Bruce Matthews, dean of arts at Acadia University and a member of the academic advisory committee to the centre. “Canada stands to gain some excellent students and Sri Lanka will benefit by gaining greater access to the Canadian education system.”