Former top Indian envoy to Canada, Vishnu Prakash, named principal adviser to Ottawa's betterU Education Corp. board

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      The COVID-19 pandemic has been a game-changer when it comes to postsecondary education.

      Colleges and universities in Canada moved quickly to virtual learning, with classes and testing being done online.

      How this plays out in the coming years is anyone's guess.

      But earlier this month, UBC's associate provost, Simon Bates, told the Straight that online instruction at his school will likely extend beyond summer.

      In the meantime, an Ottawa-based education-to-employment tech company, betterU Education Corp., has attracted a high-profile former Indian diplomat as its principal adviser to the board of directors.

      Vishnu Prakash was India's former high commissioner to Canada before retiring from the Indian Foreign Service in November 2016.

      He's also a former Indian ambassador to South Korea, former consul general in Shanghai, and former official spokesperson for India's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

      Prakash, who's based in Gurgaon in Indian's northwestern state of Haryana, has written for several newspapers, including the Hindustan Times.

      On Friday (May 15), shares in betterU Education Corp. closed at 50 cents on the TSX Venture Exchange.

      According to its last management discussion and analysis, dated March 2, betterU Education Corp. "aggregates online learning from quality content vendors including universities, colleges and corporations", and then makes this available to students through its platforms.

      The company posted a comprehensive loss of $418,469 in the three months ending on December 31, 2019.

      This week's print edition of the Georgia Straight included a large section on virtual learning.

      International students boost Canada's GDP

      In 2019 Canada become the third most popular destination in the world for international students, with 642,480 study permit holders that year, according to the federal government.

      Nearly 48 percent of them were in Ontario, followed by British Columbia with 22.5 percent.

      The top source country was India, with 219,855, followed by the People's Republic of China at 141,400.

      Back in 2015, only 48,735 study permit holders were Indian, whereas 117,840 were from the People's Republic of China. This means the number of Indian international students in Canada increased by 351 percent over four years.

      Canada's 2019 total of international study permit holders was up 13 percent over the previous year, when the federal government estimated that international students contributed $21.6 billion to Canada's gross domestic product.

      However, COVID-19 and a requirement for international travellers to self-isolate for two weeks after arriving in Canada could have an impact on those numbers going forward.