Education

Monday, 02 November 2015 02:37

Pakistani Parents Find Savings in RESPs

Written by

by Tazeen Inam in Mississauga

For many immigrants arriving in Canada, quality education for their children is top of mind when they get here.

Although high school education is free in Canada, post-secondary education is quite expensive. 

In order to help alleviate some of the cost for parents, the Canadian government has an opportunity many newcomers may not be aware of: the Registered Education Savings Plans (RESP).

RESPs are tax-sheltered savings accounts that help you save for your children’s education. Under this program, the federal government contributes an additional 20 per cent of the annual contribution you make to an RESP up to an annual maximum of $500 for each beneficiary and a lifetime limit of $7,200.

“We can’t expect any such fund in Pakistan where not only elementary and secondary, even pre-school fees for a child, suck a major part of [our] monthly salary,” says Masood Khan. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Although high school education is free in Canada, post-secondary education is quite expensive.[/quote]

Khan migrated to Canada with his wife and toddler 15 years ago after finishing his engineering degree in information technology from Nadirshaw Eduljee Dinshaw University in Pakistan. 

“My parents spent a huge amount of their earnings on my education since childhood and I was lucky enough that they could afford boarding fees too for one of the best schools in Pakistan,” Khan recalls. “But in Canada while struggling for our own future, it is vital that we plan for our children’s education much ahead of time.”

With his eldest son about to step into post-secondary and two more children to follow suit in the next five years, Khan is grateful for the RESP. 

“No matter what, it is a saving. Even in a worst situation, if none of my children uses [an] RESP, it will be returned to me in my retirement fund,” he says. 

Education of utmost importance

For the average Pakistani family, attaining higher education is one of life’s most important goals. In fact, a person’s education is often weighed as a deciding criterion when selecting a bride or groom.

Opportunities like the RESP can help with Pakistanis' pursuit of education in Canada.

Mohammad Khalid, who moved to Canada from Pakistan just couple of years ago, was not aware of the RESP until he applied for a mortgage to buy a house. The banker tempted him with the benefits the bank provided for opening an RESP.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I wanted to take advantage of the best I can get for my children’s education.”[/quote]

“I have no experience about the mutual funds or other types of investment they do with the money, so I am happy that they will manage my fund with a minimum payment of $12 annually,” Khalid says.

Khalid’s 13-year-old daughter will be starting high school next year, so he still has four years to invest in the fund. 

Although the road to settling in Canada has just started for Khalid’s family and he’s not sure what the future holds, he knows he wants an education plan for his children.

“I paid an excessive amount to catch-up on [what] I missed,” he shares, explaining that he missed out on a number of years to contribute to the fund and had to pay more than normal now as a result. “I wanted to take advantage of the best I can get for my children’s education.”

Challenges with RESP

Research shows many low and middle income families are missing out on RESP opportunities. 

Rakhshana Sultan, who once worked at a financial institution as a salesperson and worked with RESPs, says this is because of these families having “a lack of funds with them to be deposited every month.”

Newcomer families may fall into this predicament due to a variety of reasons, including difficulty finding employment. In addition, Sultan said that most parents are confused about the available options for RESP.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Research shows many low and middle income families are missing out on RESP opportunities.[/quote]

Another issue many of her past clients had with the RESP was the impact of rising tuition fees. Many clients often suggested that the government contribution should be raised to 40 per cent instead of the 20 per cent it has been for the last 15 years.

This could help alleviate pressures caused by the looming student debt crisis, Sultan concluded. 

Making the most of an RESP

Nikki Ahad, a Pakistani Canadian mother with two sons already in university, initiated RESPs early on for her children. She has several suggestions for other parents so they too can enjoy the maximum benefits of opening an RESP.

She says parents should stay active and re-evaluate the account regularly. They should assess their capability to add more money, as even an extra $5 per month is worth it. 

To ensure that they are on track to achieving their goals for their children’s post-secondary education, parents should be vigilant regarding the investment options. They should choose options that are stable, growth-oriented and less fluctuated. 

Parents should also select an RESP with no costs in the form of fees and enrolment charges.

One of the most important points, according to Ahad, is not to start saving too late. If parents are unable to afford an RESP when their child is born, then they should try to begin one when their child finishes kindergarten at the age of five or six years old. 


Journalist Priya Ramanujam mentored the writer of this article, through the New Canadian Media mentorship program.

This is the second in a five-part education series on New Canadian Media looking at the experiences of different families with saving for education in Canada. November is Financial Literacy month across Canada and November 15 - 21 is Education Savings Week.

Visit SmartSAVER.org to learn more about Registered Education Savings Plans (RESP) and to start an RESP with your choice of six major banks and credit unions. RESP information is available in 16 languages. Apply online between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 2015 and you will automatically be entered to win one of nine $1,000 weekly prizes! Learn more here. 

{module NCM Blurb}

Wednesday, 14 October 2015 05:14

New Immigrants Struggle to Save for College

Written by

by Marieton Pacheco in Vancouver

In today’s economy, Filipina-Canadian healthcare worker Bing Orense struggles to save for her children’s education.
 
Still, she puts in $150 every month for two of her kids — Jenny, 15, and NJ, 12 — knowing it will be a worthy investment in the future. 
 
She says it doesn’t even matter if she has to borrow money for it; she’s learned a hard lesson from her experience with her eldest daughter, 25-year-old Joanna.
 
Difficult beginnings
 
Orense arrived in Canada under the Domestic Worker Program in 1990, four years before her family joined her in the country. 
 
Like it is for many new immigrants, starting a new life together was difficult at first as both Orense and her husband worked odd jobs to help make ends meet. 
 
She heard about the Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP), a tax-sheltered investment option for parents and guardians to save for their children's post secondary education, through an insurance agent. However, with many expenses to meet, there was simply no extra money to contribute to an RESP.
 
“It starts with affordability,” says Orense. “It’s paycheque versus expenses — what are my priorities? With food, housing, clothing, transportation and some leisure expenses, our paycheque wasn’t even enough to cover the basics.”
 
The family’s circumstances improved by 2001 when Orense and her husband both found regular jobs with extended health and dental benefits. They started setting aside $100 per month, but it was too late. 
 
[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It’s paycheque versus expenses — what are my priorities?"[/quote]
 
The savings weren’t enough to cover their daughter Joanne’s tuition when she began attending the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 2008. 
 
Orense explains that they were able to get about $8,000 from Joanne’s RESP, which was only enough to cover her first year at UBC. 
 
She and her husband had to take out annual loans of approximately $10,000 to cover Joanna’s second to fourth years of studying. The burden became so heavy that by her final year in university, Joanna offered to take out a student loan.
 
Orense says that the reason she and her husband were willing to incur debt to pay for most of Joanna's education was because they wanted to be supportive.
 
“I think we Filipinos are used to paying for our children’s education,” Orense explains. “At that time, it was what both my husband and I wanted… we encouraged her to keep going to school, learn and get a degree.”
 
The reality of having to pay for her own school came with a lot of sacrifices for Joanna. She lived and stayed at home while attending university to save on dorm and rental costs. The young student also worked odd jobs to pay for her allowance and other spending. 
 
Importance of saving early
 
Although Orense believes this experience taught Joanna how to budget and save money, she is taking a different approach with her younger children, having started their education savings early. 
 
Although she has a bigger family with more expenses now, she tries to save for her children’s education even if it means starting small.
 
“I regret not making the most of the 20 per cent government grant so I really try and force myself to save,” Orense says. “Every extra I have goes there, it’s an investment.”
 
Financial adviser Lorina Serafico agrees. 
 
Serafico is also co-founder of the Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregivers Rights (CDWCR). The organization holds weekly sessions to empower caregivers with knowledge on issues like labour rights, immigration policies and financial literacy. 
 
[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I regret not making the most of the 20 per cent government grant."[/quote]
 
Serafico admits that education savings are hardly a priority for many caregivers in their first few years in Canada. Much of this has to do with their temporary status in the beginning.
 
“It’s hard for nannies because their children are not here yet and so saving for their education is still far from their minds,” she explains. “Their priority is to get landed status first for their husband and children to come here.”
 
She adds that once they bring their families to Canada, these caregivers also have a limited pool of money that can go to savings since many of them still carry debt to cover the costs of migrating to a new country. 
 
Take advantage of the free stuff
 
Despite these challenges, Serafico says there are ways to start saving for education early as long as it is made a priority. 
 
Newcomers can make use of money from government assistance programs like the Child Tax Benefit and the Universal Child Care Benefit to start their children’s RESP. 
 
Serafico says many caregivers can learn more about the RESP when they receive notice from government of their eligibility for the Canada Learning Bond, a grant offered to children of low-income families to help start their education savings.
 
She also encourages Filipinos to break the habit of sending their children to private elementary and high schools when they can take advantage of the public school system and use the money to save for post-secondary education instead. 
 
“You can start small, and take advantage of the free stuff and any money you can put to college, put it there,” urges Serafico.
 
Journalist Priya Ramanujam mentored the writer of this article, through the New Canadian Media mentorship program.

This is the first n a five-part education series on New Canadian Media looking at the experiences of different families with saving for education in Canada. November is financial literacy month across Canada and November 15-21 is Education Savings Week.
 
Visit SmartSAVER.org to learn more about Registered Education Savings Plans (RESP) and to start an RESP with your choice of six major banks and credit unions. RESP information is available in 16 languages. Apply online between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 2015 and you will automatically be entered to win one of nine $1,000 weekly prizes! Learn more here.
 
{module NCM Blurb}

by Marcus Medford in Toronto 

Journalism and the media play a major role in forming a national identity and informing the public about what’s important. 

That is why Rohit Joseph, who is currently in the Masters of Journalism program at The University of British Columbia (UBC), says that people of diverse backgrounds play an important role in the media.

Joseph and his family moved to Vancouver, British Columbia from New Delhi, India when he was nine years old. The 23 year old has spent most of his life in Canada and identifies as Canadian. 

“If the news media and political establishments want to improve their relationship with the diverse ethnic communities that make up this nation, we need qualified journalists from these communities to represent them,” he says. 

It starts in j-school 

Joseph’s UBC classmate, Jessica Quin (a pseudonym), says that journalism as a whole doesn’t accurately represent Canada’s diversity and that there’s more work to be done – and it starts in the classroom. 

“Ethnic diversity in journalism schools is not only important, it is absolutely necessary in an ever-changing Canadian multicultural landscape,” says the 24 year old. 

Journalism programs, like all other post-secondary programs, have a responsibility to produce graduates of all ethnicities. Failure to do so is a “disservice to the country” according to Carleton University journalism student Jolson Lim. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Journalists of colour have to work harder to land a job in the industry.”[/quote]

In the United States, a survey from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication found that approximately one out of every four students majoring in journalism or communications is a visible minority. 

In Canada, according to Humber College journalism program coordinator Dan Rowe, it seems that while there is a considerable number of visible minorities graduating from j-school, they aren’t the ones being hired. 

Quin says hiring challenges are something she hears of often from friends already working in the industry. 

“In truth, you will be more easily hired if you are white, because you fit the standard status quo and implicitly fit into the newsroom culture,” she says. “Journalists of colour have to work harder to land a job in the industry.” 

‘White values’ remain dominant 

Guyanese-born Varsha Ramdihol remembers watching as her parents struggled to find employment due to hiring biases when her family first immigrated to Toronto. 

Ramdihol, 18, studies journalism at the University of Toronto Scarborough’s campus and has a “very diverse” class, which she thinks is important. Still, she admits to one major concern: her ability to find a job when she graduates based on what she looks like or cultural stereotypes. 

Ramdihol says that, if hired, she and other visible minorities can bring added value to the news through “background information, context and history” when it comes to certain events. 

Jeffrey Dvorkin, 69, is the director of U of T’s Journalism program and teaches a class at the Scarborough campus. Like Ramdihol, Dvorkin says his class is very diverse, which, he adds, is a good thing. But the former National Public Radio ombudsman does have some concerns. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“[J]ournalism refuses to shake its own whiteness.”[/quote]

“I worry that as journalism schools graduate journalists of colour, that they may reflect a class perspective (educated, middle class) rather than a purely ethnic one,” the professor explains. 

Dvorkin admits that while reflecting a class bias can be a negative thing, it isn’t always. “It’s just part of the business,” he says. 

Miglena Todorova of U of T’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) agrees with Dvorkin’s claim. Todorova, an assistant professor in social justice, says that the ethnic composition of a classroom doesn’t matter if biases exists. 

Todorova explains that the class bias within journalism is entrenched in the profession. 

“Journalism therefore continues to be dominated by a particular set of needs and knowledge and those are the values of white people,” Todorova adds. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“You have to ask yourself ‘who is teaching these programs?’”[/quote]

Todorova argues that many of the people in decision-making positions working within mass media are white and as a result “journalism refuses to shake its own whiteness.” 

“You have to ask yourself ‘who is teaching these programs?’” Todorova adds. 

Changing academia

“I have never encountered a non-white professor in journalism,” says 20-year-old Hannah Wondmeneh, a  fourth year journalism student at Carleton University who self-identifies as Ethiopian-Canadian.

Wondmeneh's observation is not uncommon it seems.

Of all the students New Canadian Media spoke with in writing this article, the only one who said he saw his ethnicity represented amongst the faculty was a Caucasian male from Alberta.

Dvorkin thinks that balancing conflicting forces is the key to solving issues of diversity in journalism. Dvorkin admits that academia can be rigid when it comes to accepting new ideas, but he’s confident there is a way to “make them compatible.”

But for Wondmeneh, what’s troubling is that she feels as if nothing is being done about it.

“We don’t talk about,” she says. “It’s as if it’s a non-issue, not anything that would need to be addressed, and I find that frustrating.”


{module NCM Blurb}

Wednesday, 23 September 2015 21:16

Promising Prospects for B.C. Students from Mexico

Written by

by Aurora Tejeida in Vancouver

Though its diaspora community in British Columbia might not be the biggest or most visible, Mexico is Canada’s third largest trade partner and the ninth largest contributor of international students.

In fact, it sends the most international students to Canada of any other Latin American country.

It was in this context that Juan Navarro decided to organize the first Mexi-Can Forum. The event, which took place earlier this month at The University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Robson Square, brought together leaders in education, innovation and entrepreneurship from both the public and private sectors.

“One of the main purposes of this forum was to make it clear that Mexicans in B.C. are contributing to Canadian society,” explains Navarro.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I think this is a great time for Mexicans to prove we can be there for each other.”[/quote]

Navarro is the president of the B.C. chapter of the Society of Mexican Talent — a global network that operates in 45 different locations around the world with each chapter focusing on different subjects.

According to Navarro, the B.C. group, which was only created a year ago, is heavily focused on education, innovation, technology and entrepreneurship – the same subjects that were broadly discussed during the forum.

“I think this is a great time for Mexicans to prove we can be there for each other,” says Navarro. “Not just because we share a culture and many of us are coming here and starting from zero. But because we can achieve great things.”

Mexico: A strategic ally

The forum opened with keynote speeches by Claudia Franco Hijuelos, Consul General of Mexico in Vancouver, Andrew Wilkinson, the Minister of Advanced Education in B.C. and Andrea Reimer, city councillor and Deputy Mayor of Vancouver.

During his keynote speech, Wilkinson noted that Mexico is a strategic ally in international education and that the province is interested in receiving more Mexican students. There are currently more than 400 signed agreements among universities and higher-education institutions in both countries.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][T]he number of Mexican students in Canada grew by 58 per cent between 2004 and 2013.[/quote]

According to data provided during the conference by Mitacs, a non-for-profit research organization governed by Canada’s research universities, Canada ranks as the world’s seventh most popular destination for international students.

The number of international students grew by 84 per cent between 2003 and 2013, and Canada’s International Education Strategy aims to increase international students to 450,000 by 2022.

Specifically, the number of Mexican students in Canada grew by 58 per cent between 2004 and 2013.

A brand new Canada-Mexico International Education Agreement, which was announced in June, aims to invest $10 million to attract Mexican post-secondary students and post-doctoral fellows to Canadian universities and research institutions, as well as give Canadian students the opportunity to diversify their research experience in Mexico.

Growing possibilities in tech

While this is an exciting time for Mexican students, one of the most noteworthy aspects of the forum was the evident optimism surrounding the fast growing technology sector in Vancouver and the employment possibilities this sector is creating for current and future talent – foreign or domestic.

In his presentation, Robert Helsley, Dean of the Sauder School of Business at UBC, made a point to highlight the importance of partnerships between growing industries and educational institutions. In the case of Vancouver, the fastest growing sector is technology.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“The most important thing is talent and the tech firms will come here if there is talent."[/quote]

According to Helsley, the best way to know which industry is concentrated in any given city is through a measure called the location quotient, which is measured by taking the percentage of employment in a local industry and dividing it by the percentage of employment in that industry on a national level.

“The industries concentrated in a city lets you know what’s basic for the local economy,” explains Helsley. “In Vancouver, it’s data processing, motion picture and video industries, publishing industries (which includes software), water transportation, rail transportation, wholesaling and warehouses.” 

Helsley further explains that these industries are related to the city’s port and technology sector. Since the port sector is already extremely successful, the more likely candidate for growth in Vancouver is technology. 

The numbers support this. According to data provided by Helsley, in five years only 69,000 jobs were created in Vancouver; however, 12,400 of those jobs (20 per cent) were in the scientific and technical services industry. 

“IT is relatively concentrated and it’s growing quickly,” says Helsley. “The most important thing is talent and the tech firms will come here if there is talent. And that means that education is particularly important, especially in engineering and business.”  

This also means that the creation of a space like the Mexi-Can forum, which focuses on creating international partnerships in the technology, innovation and education sectors, is a step in the right direction. 

For Navarro, this year’s forum is just the beginning. He’s already planning next year’s. 

“We would like more people to come next year. There’s lots of space to grow, maybe branching to other provinces or making it a national forum.”

{module NCM Blurb}

by Sukaina Jaffer in Toronto

With schools back in full swing this week, many parents are breathing a sigh of relief as their children head back to learning. However, for new immigrants to Canada, adjusting to a new education system can bring about a myriad of unique challenges and worries.

For Zohra Mawji, a homemaker who emigrated from Mozambique about two years ago, this is the first year she is sending her two daughters – ages seven and 11 – to public school versus a private Islamic one.

“[Alisha and Nidah were] a little nervous about going to a new school,” explains Mawji, “but on the whole they were looking forward to it as they love Canada.”

Adapting to Canadian education

Mawji has mixed feelings about the new school. On one hand, she praises the principal and teachers at the Richmond Hill school as being very helpful, and states “the exposure will be good for my daughters as it is not good to live in a bubble.”

On the other, Mawji is concerned about Ontario’s new sex-ed curriculum and that her kids will be exposed to particular subject matter too soon.

“Don’t put things into their mind that they don’t need to know,” she says. “Parents know when their kids need to know these things.”

Mawji is considering pulling her younger daughter out of the Grade 2 classes during these particular lessons.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“The only thing we considered was to protect our kid from the negativities of ‘English’ culture.”[/quote]

She is not alone in her concerns.

Asgar Daya, who moved his family from France to Canada a year ago, says he would pull his seven-year-old daughter Misbah Fatema out of public school and send her to private Islamic school if it was financially feasible.

“[I am] highly concerned and worried about the impact on my daughter,” he explains, of the sex-ed curriculum.

The decision to switch from public school to faith-based school is one that Brampton resident Zaffar Bhayani and his wife also made.

Bhayani left Pakistan two years ago with his wife and son due to sectarian and religious violence. When his four-year-old son started public school here, he says the family did not face any difficulties and the teachers were very helpful.  

“The only thing we considered was to protect our kid from the negativities of ‘English’ culture,” he says. 

He recalls that his son would question his mother about why she covered herself with the veil while other children’s mothers who came to school did not and would be dressed in shorts.

To preserve the values of their Islamic faith, the Bhayanis decided to enroll their son in an Islamic school when he turned five years old.

English as a second language

Another main concern many newcomer parents have for their children heading back to school has to do with language.

While Daya’s daughter attends a French school and has been able to fit in well as French is her first language, he still worries that she is not fluent in English and, as such, is not able to converse well in it. His wife also only speaks basic English, while being fluent in French.

Bhayani, who speaks fluent English, says sometimes there is another issue. He finds that having a foreign accent is a big challenge and a lot of time and practice is needed to adopt a Canadian accent.

Fortunately several school boards have different programs in place to help students improve language skills and feel more comfortable in their new setting.

For instance, the York Region School Board offers LINC – Language Instruction For Newcomers to Canada programs and the Peel District School Board has set up a Welcome Centre for newcomer students and families.

The Canadian government also provides assistance through various services, one of which is the Welcome Centre Immigrant Services, which offers English language classes for newcomers as well as a host of different services.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Get your kids involved in extracurricular activities so they can gain their language skills faster through interaction with other kids.”[/quote]

Mary Fowley (who asked her name be changed for privacy) has been a public school teacher for over 20 years and teaches English as a Second Language (ESL). She says that when it comes to students new to Canada, “the younger kids aged four to seven years (old) are able to learn English faster and it is less of a challenge for them to fit in with their peers.”

According to Fowley, older children nine to 12 years old face more difficulty learning English and forming friendships because of cultural barriers. 

Sameena Bhimani, an elementary teacher with the York Region District School Board, says she partners up newcomer kids in her class with a buddy who helps them to get acquainted with things like class routines and where to go for recess.

From an academic perspective, Bhimani works one-on-one with newcomer kids and teaches them different concepts related to the subject at hand.

Bhimani advises new immigrant parents to, “Get your kids involved in extracurricular activities so they can gain their language skills faster through interaction with other kids.” 

{module NCM Blurb}

by Joyeeta Dutta Ray (@joeyday20) in Etobicoke, Ontario

Diana Nayel immigrated to Toronto from Sweden with her sister in June 2012, leaving behind all things familiar. She started her first day of Grade 5 at Toronto’s Westway Junior School in the city’s west end feeling a bit lost. No one spoke Swedish in her class. She was unsure of her English skills. How long would it take to fit in, she wondered.

Muntasir Mohammed arrived from Dacca, Bangladesh in 2011. Although his English fluency helped him adapt faster to his Grade 5 classmates in Etobicoke, Ont., he was uncomfortable carrying homemade curries to school. His lunchbox always contained cookies or chicken nuggets, compromising nutrition for the need to fit in.

Salma Syed (whose has been name changed for privacy) wears her hijab with pride, like many of her Grade 7 classmates at Toronto’s Islington Junior Middle School, but is quick to take it off when she’s out with her friends in an effort to blend in with society at large. Her parents migrated from Dacca, Bangladesh in 1999.

For 12-year-old Aneeka Ray (full disclosure: she is my daughter), she arrived in Toronto in 2013 from Bangkok, Thailand and being a newcomer made her the easy target of a cyber bully. She was not the first one, either. According to her friend, other shy newcomers had faced similar experiences at school.

Finding ways to assimilate

Each year, over 50,000 children arrive in Canada, and like Nayel, Mohammed, Syed and Ray, they are unsure of how they will fit in. 

Some are war refugees; some are typhoon victims. Some have parents with low literacy levels. Others are financially challenged. And the education system itself is unfamiliar.

Their parents or guardians often get sucked into their new world of struggle, leaving children to fend for themselves. Kids are whisked off to a neighbourhood school, expected to take to it like fish to water, even though it is difficult to find their bearings.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Once a new child sees a peer group of the same ethnicity, they are quicker to form a bond.”[/quote]

Canadian schools offer free education and equal opportunities. But is the system doing enough to ensure newcomer children a chance at educational success?

“In many schools a sizeable number of students are naturalized Canadians from various ethnic backgrounds,” explains Manoshi Chatterjee, who teaches in an elementary school in York region. “Once a new child sees a peer group of the same ethnicity, they are quicker to form a bond. Group activities help them participate and assimilate.”

This was true for Nayel. Even though she isn’t of Somali descent herself, when she started a new school her second year of being in Canada where there were many Somali Canadians, the setting felt more familiar.

“My school in Sweden was in a Somali neighbourhood,” explains Nayel. “My new friends made me feel much more at home (in Canada).”

For Nayel, English as Second Language (ESL) classes helped polish her linguistic skills, which she initially felt insecure about. 

“ESL programs play a pivotal role for immigrant students who struggle with reading, writing or communicating in the language,” explains Chatterjee whose school (she didn't want to disclose the name for privacy), like most others, champions the program.

Supporting newcomer students

Jane Chandler, an elementary school teacher with the Peel Board District Board in Mississauga says that schools play a vital role in helping students adjust. She highlights the Peel board’s parenting centres, where adults are encouraged to participate with their children, as a prime example of this.

“This acts as a wonderful platform,” Chandler says. “The family gets to know the culture of Canadian schools. Parents get opportunities to share stories about their own culture and learn from others.  We encourage students to speak their own language at home. This may slow down the English learning process, but in the long run, it (multi-lingualism) has several benefits.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“[Students] are taught to value the richness of their own culture and at the same time develop respect for others.”[/quote]

Keya Ghosh, an elementary school supply teacher for the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) hones in on diversity. 

“Our schools play a critical role in making students appreciate their differences,” Ghosh says. “[Students] are taught to value the richness of their own culture and at the same time develop respect for others.”

Ghosh points to special events celebrated across TDSB schools like African Heritage Month and ‘multicultural day’ as examples of this.

Outside of the Greater Toronto Area, initiatives like Newcomers’ Orientation Week, which was held by one Windsor, Ont. high school, help to put anxious newcomers at ease.

Canadian schools amongst top in the world

The efforts Canadian schools make to support newcomer and culturally diverse students is perhaps a reflection of an education system in fairly good shape.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“A quality and free education helps every new immigrant family get equal opportunity in one of the best school systems in the world.”[/quote]

According to an international education survey reported by CBC, Canadian schools are among the top globally, right after China (Shanghai province), Korea, Finland, Hong Kong and Singapore. 

The report states, “Students in Canada tend to perform well regardless of their socio-economic background or the school they attend.” 

On a regional level, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia rank highest in reading skills.

“A quality and free education helps every new immigrant family get equal opportunity in one of the best school systems in the world,” says Chatterjee. “It is one of the major factors that have helped newcomers integrate into Canadian society.”

{module NCM Blurb} 

by Leah Bjornson (@leahjuneb) in Vancouver, British Columbia

With both the the Canadian Association of University Teachers and the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) faculty association calling for the chair of UBC’s Board of Governors to resign, more professors are speculating as to the reasons behind the abrupt resignation of UBC President Arvind Gupta.

Gupta’s departure was announced in a vague news release sent out by the Board of Governors on the afternoon of Friday, August 7. Although no explanation was given in the original release, UBC Board of Governors’ chairman John Montalbano told the Vancouver Sun that Gupta’s reasons were “personal” and “in the best interest of his family, himself and the university.”

Nevertheless, the secretive nature of Gupta’s leaving has raised significant outcry from the UBC Faculty Association. Fourteen faculty members signed an open letter sent earlier this week in which they expressed concerns about a perceived lack of transparency in the processes surrounding the President’s resignation.

Gupta had only been in his term for 13 months, and will receive his presidential salary of $446,750 for the current year under the grounds of academic leave.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It is not typical for someone in a position like that to abruptly leave barely into their contract.”[/quote]

“It was shocking!” exclaimed Sandra Mathison, a tenured professor in UBC’s faculty of education, when asked about her reaction to the initial announcement. “It is not typical for someone in a position like that to abruptly leave barely into their contract.”

Varied speculations on departure

Although Mathison was not one of the faculty members who signed the open letter calling for the chair’s resignation, she says her sentiments are shared by many members of the university.

“There are a lot of faculty who are incredibly—one they were shocked and two upset,” she related. “I think that there was, among faculty and students, a generally positive or at least neutral response to him. So there was very little reason to believe that this was coming and happened so precipitously.”

Mathison speculates that there are two possible explanations for Gupta’s departure: one, that the Board of Governors made a non-traditional hire and later decided that they’d made a mistake; or two, that the Board didn’t give Gupta adequate time or support to figure out his role. Either, she says, indicates poor judgement on their behalf.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Berdahl suggested that Gupta resigned because he had “lost the masculinity contest among the leadership at UBC.”[/quote]

Sauder School of Business Professor Jennifer Berdahl offered a more controversial theory in a recent blog post. Berdahl suggested that Gupta resigned because he had “lost the masculinity contest among the leadership at UBC” by failing to act in ways a more traditional leader would.

Shortly after posting the article, Berdahl received a call from Montalbano, whose personal donation of $2 million created her teaching post. Berdahl claims Montalbano intimidated her, attempting to inhibit her from speaking further on the matter.

This incident and resulting media and social media uproar have spurred the Canadian Association of University Teachers to join the fight. The group issued a letter on Wednesday in which they asked Montalbano to step aside while the university investigates the allegations against him of violating academic freedom.

Montalbano denies all charges of violating academic freedom, stating that he only contacted Berdahl to further understand her concerns. Yet, the financial links between him and the university have caused some to question the chair’s intentions behind his conversation with Berdahl.

“He’s confusing his own personal interests and his public role as the chair of the board of governors, and no matter what his intentions may be, the effect of his actions and the way this was spun out are quite curious,” commented Charles Menzies, a UBC professor of anthropology.

An obligation for transparency

Menzies also did not sign the open letter from the faculty association, but has been an active voice on Twitter since the announcement, speaking out against the perceived lack of transparency on the Board’s behalf.

Based on Mathison’s limited personal experiences with Gupta, she disagrees with Berdahl’s observation that he was some exceptional champion of diversity. However, Menzies has suggested an alternative reason for his early departure.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“The Board of Governors has got to provide an explanation for why it is that President Gupta is no longer the President.”[/quote]

He explained that Gupta was a “non-traditional” hire, emerging from a background of entrepreneurship and innovation rather than higher education administration. What’s more, Menzies said that Gupta chose to focus his term on research and education, which diverged from the university’s previous initiatives geared towards “money-making ventures.”

“In certain circles of those running this university, that [pursuit] actually is probably understood as a threat to their security,” he commented.

While their speculations may differ, Menzies and Mathison both agree that the faculty and public deserve a better explanation from the Board. “The obligation for transparency is absolutely the key element here,” said Mathison. “The Board of Governors has got to provide an explanation for why it is that President Gupta is no longer the President.”


Published in partnership with the South Asian Post. 

by Shan Qiao (@dmaomao) in Toronto

Susan* felt lucky to land her first job as an interpreter a few months after settling in Ottawa. But the rollercoaster ride that followed – leaving her without payment after more than six months – left a bitter taste in her mouth.

Having emigrated from China two years prior, she had tried to find work through many employment agencies to no avail - despite her experience back home translating for several book clients and the New York Times’ Chinese-language website.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I was so excited. I also felt anxious [about] some medical terms I might not be able to interpret . . .  Instead of checking reviews on this company, I started checking my dictionary.”[/quote]

Finally, she got a reply from Able Translations Inc., through Canada’s national job hunt website indeed.ca, and soon after signed a freelance agreement with the Mississauga, Ontario–based company.

Not only was she delighted with the pay rate of $25 an hour, but also the fact that she was able to work even without an interpreter licence, which is required by many other companies in the language interpretation industry.

“Although I’m a professional in translation back in China, I have not yet had a licence here. I [had only been] here for a short time; I [needed] to find a job,” explains Susan, during a phone interview with New Canadian Media.

Able Translations sent an assignment on January 13, asking Susan to interpret at a physiotherapy clinic in Ottawa the next day for an insurance-related issue.

“I was so excited. I also felt anxious [about] some medical terms I might not be able to interpret . . .  Instead of checking reviews on this company, I started checking my dictionary,” explains Susan, admitting not doing a background check on Able was her biggest mistake.

According to Susan, the assignment went well – she satisfied the expectations of both the client and Able. She then signed a time sheet, filed an invoice, and waited for her first payment of $50. Upon signing the original agreement, she had opted for immediate payment versus the company’s default pay schedule, which issues earnings every two months.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Montero dismisses accusations Able tries to take advantage of bilingual immigrants hungry for professional jobs.[/quote]

“I haven’t received any payment even right now,” she claims. “From sending them emails every two to three days to every week, I never got an answer. Every time [I called] someone [would] forward my calls to nowhere.”

Several other translators have posted comments narrating their experiences working with Able Translations, however, NCM was unable to corroborate their claims independently.

An unregulated industry

Julio Montero, in charge of Able Translations’ compliance and regulatory affairs, tells New Canadian Media the company never fails to pay anyone.

“When an interpreter doesn’t receive payment, it may be for a number of reasons,” he explains. “Some might not file the invoice properly, others may not sign the time sheet, or they unfortunately engaged in unprofessional [conduct].” He adds interpreters who are biased or show up late for a job are not compensated.

As for why the company would hire someone without a license, Montero explains: “Unfortunately, the language industry in Canada is not a regulated profession. It is not illegal for you to work as an interpreter. We have certain standards . . . We hire accredited interpreters. It is someone who has a combination of knowledge, experience and certain accreditation.”

He also explains that, based on a client’s urgency to hire an interpreter as well as the availability of the interpreters, Able will sometimes opt for less qualified candidates.

Montero dismisses accusations Able tries to take advantage of bilingual immigrants hungry for professional jobs. He stresses that the company has hundreds of freelance interpreters and translators and most of them are second-generation Canadians.

“No one is perfect. We recently went through a transition in [our] accounting system. Sometimes payments may slip through cracks,” Montero explains. He encourages people who have payment issues with the company to contact him directly.

Not ‘an industry for new immigrants’

Lola Bendana, president of national member organization Language Industry Association (AILIA), stresses the importance of gaining proper training and licensing in Canada.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Being bilingual doesn’t necessarily mean being able to interpret or translate . . . you also need to understand many social contexts and Canadian culture.” - Julie Li, interpreter[/quote]

“We don’t have legal authority to arbitrate a financial settlement,” Bendana says.

Professionalization and professional practice is what AILIA usually recommends to people, continues Bendana.

“Sign a contract with an organization, stop working for the company if you don’t get paid,” she advises, adding people claiming not to be paid can decide to go to small claims court and file an official financial dispute.

Bendana also indicates that, back in 2006, Seneca College launched the first of its kind training course for the language interpretation industry, and since then many other colleges have started to offer the program.

The Language Interpretation Training Program, a 180-hour certificate course to train interpreters designed by the Ontario Council on Community Interpreting, is a step toward professionalization and standardization of the industry.

Julie Li (pictured left), a Toronto-based interpreter, has finished one and a half years of the training program at Seneca College and has already obtained a basic Community Interpretation Licence. She currently works with MCIS Language Services and 911 Emergency Services.

“Being bilingual doesn’t necessarily mean being able to interpret or translate,” Li says. “I don’t even think this is an industry for new immigrants because you also need to understand many social contexts and Canadian culture.”

Hearing about Susan’s case, Li says it should be treated as a common labour dispute like in any other industry, but adds, “Unlicensed job seekers are prone to be ripped off because there are always companies [that] want to target them.”

*Susan’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.

 

{module NCM Blurb}

by Diba Hareer (@DibaHareer) in Ottawa, Ontario

In September 2010, I received a phone call from Afghanistan. My relative, Meena, was on the other end. The Grade 9 schoolgirl was upset because her father had pulled her out of school when she reached puberty.

Meena was confined at home for over two months, unable to get permission to return to school. Her call from a village in Baghlan province, 230 km northeast of Kabul, was a desperate cry for help from my father, an elder of our extended family. Luckily, he influenced Meena’s father to let her resume school.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]It is difficult to increase the literacy rate in Afghanistan with so many girls not completing school.[/quote]

Meena’s plight informed my future academic research: The Influence of Traditions and Cultural Norms on Girls’ School Withdrawal in Afghanistan. It turns out Meena was incredibly lucky – a significant number of girls never make it back to school.

Fewer Girls in Secondary School

It is difficult to increase the literacy rate in Afghanistan with so many girls not completing school. These girls simply add to the large population of illiterate women in the world.

A World Bank report says that since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, education for Afghan girls has improved significantly with school enrolment over 3.75 million in 2015, compared to 191,000 in 2002.

While this increase seems promising, High Stakes – a joint briefing paper about the many hurdles girls in Afghanistan face in getting an education – reports a dramatic decrease in enrolment at the secondary school level and higher.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]My research has shown that in over a decade since the fall of the Taliban, not much effort has been made to retain female students in schools, especially in the rural areas where 75 to 80 per cent of the country’s population lives.[/quote]

The United States Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has also expressed concern over the Afghan Ministry of Education’s vague record of the number of students currently present in schools.

The ministry’s records show that in 2014 out of 8.35 million students (both genders) enrolled, 6.6 million were present and 1.55 million were permanently absent.

According to the Afghan education system, an absent student’s name remains on the roll for three years; then he or she is considered a permanent absentee. The records do not indicate the number of students who dropped out or were withdrawn from school during this time.

My research has shown that in over a decade since the fall of the Taliban, not much effort has been made to retain female students in schools, especially in the rural areas where 75 to 80 per cent of the country’s population lives.

Foreign countries like Canada have provided assistance, though. Canada has spent over $2 billion investing in numerous educational projects for Afghanistan between 2002 and 2013 and renewed its commitment to Afghanistan from 2014 to 2017 focusing on education, mothers’ health, human rights, women’s rights and building the capacity of local organizations.

Positive Impact of Education Overlooked

Many cultural and non-cultural factors prevent Afghan girls from staying in school.

Parents’ or guardians’ lack of awareness about the benefits of schooling for women, combined with fear of elopement or kidnapping, and in many cases wrong interpretation of Islamic teachings, all prevent girls in rural areas from getting a high school education, if not more.

Recently, Mohammad Younus Yousufi, Provincial Head of Kandahar Province, urged parents to allow their daughters to complete high school. “Every year we witness older girls leaving school. We know it is because families withdraw them,” he has been quoted as saying.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]People say a girl should learn how to pray and observe fast, and that is enough.” - Research participant[/quote]

Through my research I found it is a common belief among rural people that when a girl reaches puberty education has no purpose in her life; she should prepare for marriage and learn how to do housework and be a caregiver. One of my research participants spoke of the community attitude towards girls’ education by saying: “People say a girl should learn how to pray and observe fast, and that is enough.”

Often overlooked, especially among men, is the positive impact of girls’ education on their personal lives and their future married life, even if it doesn't help them to get employed. After all, securing employment is another obstacle for girls, and there are minimum “female jobs” in the rural areas.

Some Families ‘Worse Than Taliban’

Rana was studying in Grade 11 at age 18 when her brother pulled her out of school in 2012. Her mother explained the motive: “My son told his sisters, ‘do the housework. That will benefit you in your future [after marriage]. School has no benefit for you.’”

Similarly, 20-year-old Farha was in Grade 8 when her only brother stopped her from attending school. Likewise, her 18-year-old sister Gulnar was prevented from going to school in Grade 9. (The reason for the discrepancy between their age and the grade they were attending is because girls were banned from school under the Taliban from 1996 to 2001, and the earlier turmoil from 1992 to 1996 that kept many girls out of school.)

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“If my son had a mind of his own, he would have said, ‘whatever people say I won’t buy. Until I [have] seen my sisters being corrupted, talking and flirting with boys, I won’t believe it.’” - Mother of girls withdrawn from school[/quote]

Farha and Gulnar’s mother said the rumours spread by villagers about schoolgirls are a major problem. “If my son had a mind of his own, he would have said, ‘whatever people say I won’t buy. Until I [have] seen my sisters being corrupted, talking and flirting with boys, I won’t believe it.’”

When asked if there are any threats from the Taliban, the mother responded: “There isn’t any threat from Taliban, but some families are worse than Taliban. Uncles and relatives are worse than Taliban.”

Farha and Gulnar represent hundreds of thousands of girls in Afghanistan whose rights to education are being denied.

According to the High Stakes report, a schoolteacher in Parwan province suggests that if schools maintain regular contact with parents through meetings, this will help them see the benefit of education and cooperate in sending their daughters to school despite the challenges. 

Cases like Meena need not be rare. Meena graduated from high school in 2013 and was one of the few girls who went on to study further in the Khinjan district of Baghlan province. This year she will complete a teacher-training program in the district and hopefully get a job in her field.  

{module NCM Blurb} 

Sunday, 14 June 2015 21:15

Youth Push for Tagalog Curriculum

Written by

Too many youth are unaware of the Filipino culture, history and language. This is the message from youth who gathered in Slocan Park on Philippine Independence Day. It was a hot afternoon on June 6 when they rallied outdoors, prompting the community to take action by integrating the Filipina language into the school system.

"As our community marks the Philippines' 117th Independence Day, it's important to both celebrate how far we've come - and recognize how much we still need to do," says Filipino-born Canadian James Infante, executive member of University of British Columbia's Filipino Students Association.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][I]n the coming weeks and months, we will introduce a campaign calling on school boards to include the Filipino language as a course offer[ed] in the school system." - James Infante, University of British Columbia's Filipino Students Association[/quote]

"And one of the things we need to address is the youth's increasing lack of awareness about the Filipino culture, history and language. So in the coming weeks and months, we will introduce a campaign calling on school boards to include the Filipino language as a course offer[ed] in the school system," he added.

Infante wanted the day’s events to also remind the community about the Philippine revolution of 1896, when over a century ago, sacrifices were made so freedom could be gained for the Filipino people of today.

In British Columbia high schools, French is compulsory until grade 10. Other languages such as Spanish are available at some schools.

Published in Partnership with The Filipino Post.

Page 3 of 4

New Canadian Media provides nonpartisan news and views representing all Canadian immigrant communities. As part of this endeavour, we re-publish aggregated content from various ethnic media publishers in Canada in an effort to raise the profile of news and commentary from an immigrant perspective. New Canadian Media, however, does not guarantee the accuracy of or endorse the views and opinions contained in content from such other sites. The views expressed on this site are those of the individual writers and commentators, and not necessarily those of New Canadian Media. Copyright © 2019 All rights reserved