Teachers, administrators and media from both sides of the Pacific gathered in Old Main on Thursday, Sept. 29, to celebrate the grand opening of a private high school.
Named Maple Leaf University School, the institution teaches students between grades 10 and 12 and is to be included on campus as part of the “university village” TRU is creating through its master plan.
The school is run by a private Chinese school system called Maple Leaf Educational Systems (MLES). It is the country’s largest private international school and graduates earn both their Chinese and B.C. high school diplomas. According to Chairman and founder Sherman Jen, the school enrols more than 18,000 students in China.
“Twenty years ago, B.C. brought its curriculum to China. Twenty years later, Maple Leaf has returned to B.C.” Jen said at the grand opening.
The school will one day be based in its own building on campus in the future, but in the meantime, the school is located on the second floor of the south wing of Old Main.
MLES started delivering the B.C. curriculum to Chinese students in 1995. The TRU campus is the first to be opened outside of China.
The introduction of the private high school on campus has left many with unanswered questions, including Tom Friedman, president of the TRU Faculty Association. Friedman sent a letter on Monday stating his concerns to TRU’s senior administrators but as of Friday morning had not received a response.
“Even though this private school is paying a fee, we still don’t think that the public buildings that were paid for by our B.C. taxes should be used to promote private profit,” Friedman told The Omega.
In an interview before the event, Friedman claims that the communication of the details on the project from administration had left areas of concern, including if the high-school students will have access to any university facilities, such as the library or gym.
“We don’t have any details of what [the lease] involves. We’re not interested in the monetary side, we’re more interested in what access these students and their instructors have to our resources,” Friedman said.
“I understand that there is a financial pressure because the government funding has been reduced over the years, but at the same time I don’t think that this is the right way to go.”
According to Friedman, it also had not been made clear to him if graduates will follow the same processes for admissions by the university, fearing the possibility that students may receive preferential treatment in regards to admissions into programs.
Baihua Chadwick, associate vice-president international and CEO of TRU World, said in an interview after the opening that the facilities students have access to includes the classrooms in its section, a designated gym period and a cafeteria meal plan, and all are covered in the costs MLES has paid to lease the space.
Chadwick added that Maple Leaf also covered the cost of renovations in its space and that students will follow the same admission process as any student at TRU if they apply to any of its programs.
Some other universities in Canada host private high schools on their campuses, including the University of Vancouver Island in Nanaimo. Its high school offers access to university facilities and resources and, according to their brochure, guarantees admission into VIU.