Education

by Aeman Ansari

Jeffrey Sze is a third-year student in the University of Toronto Scarborough and Centennial College’s joint journalism program. Batoul Hreiche is a fourth-year journalism student at Carleton University. Kaitlyn Smith is a second-year student in the University of Toronto Scarborough and Centennial College’s joint journalism program. 


J-Source: Is your school diverse? This question applies to the student body and the faculty. 

Hreiche: My j-school’s student body and faculty is not as diverse as one would hope. There are very few people who are culturally and ethnically different. I’d also like to point out that I’m double-majoring in law, and I see much more diversity in their student body, as well as their faculty, than I do in journalism.

Sze: I feel like my student body is composed of a diverse body of people from different countries and backgrounds. In terms of faculty, it’s not as diverse.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][J]ust because there is a multicultural environment in Canada doesn't mean ignorance automatically vanishes. I’ve found that many Canadians are very closed minded, and I am astounded at the way people confuse tolerance for ignorance. - Kaitlyn Smith[/quote]

Smith: I think a lot of the problems with diversity and its total lack of proportion in the journalism field and j-schools is the restrictive, suffocating model of education in Ontario. My first year at university I remember the pressure to conform, so much so that I didn’t think it was worth it to finish my degree.

But last semester I was taught by a biracial, female professor — Dr. Minelle Mahtani — who rejected the university’s original method of teaching (she literally saved my journalism career). She focused the classroom on thinking outside of the box. I think this is a great way to start approaching the ideas of diversity.

Additionally, just because there is a multicultural environment in Canada doesn't mean ignorance automatically vanishes. I’ve found that many Canadians are very closed minded, and I am astounded at the way people confuse tolerance for ignorance. 

Hreiche: I believe a lack of diversity exists because the journalism industry is primarily perceived as a “white” field. And people who may come from a misrepresented cultural or ethnic background tend to hold a negative view of the industry. So people generally do not want to engage in journalism. 

J-Source: Batoul, why do you think the law program might be more diverse?

Hreiche: From my experience double-majoring, I believe the law industry is evolving quicker than journalism is. A lot of my friends who have completed law school told me that there is a diverse population in their field. And I’ve noticed that while searching for lawyers or legal experts to interview for certain articles. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Sometimes, I feel the opposite. I feel that looking different makes me stand out — in a good way. My experience as one of the two hijab-wearing students in the journalism program made me realize how being different was actually a powerful tool. - Batoul Hreiche [/quote]

J-Source: If there is a lack of diversity in your school’s faculty, why do you think it exists?

Sze: For me, in terms of faculty, I feel like it isn’t as diverse because of the media landscape in the past. The professors here are people who have had experience in the industry. It’s a reflection of the media landscape in the past. I think that as we move forward, maybe in the next 15 years, we might see a change. 

Breaking into the Industry as a 'Diverse' Face

J-Source: Have you faced any challenges because of this lack of diversity in the industry?

Hreiche: Sometimes, I feel the opposite. I feel that looking different makes me stand out — in a good way. My experience as one of the two hijab-wearing students in the journalism program made me realize how being different was actually a powerful tool. 

I just completed a two-week internship with the CBC, and I was lucky enough to get three on-camera opportunities. I received so many heartwarming comments from people who are not used to seeing diversity on mainstream media, and not all the people who reached out to me were Muslim or Arab! 

Sze: I don't think I have faced challenges in this industry. I feel like the opportunities that I was able to get in journalism was not because of my background but rather my skill set.

J-Source: What do you think might be some ways to increase diversity moving forward?

Sze: I feel that having diversity in the field is definitely a great thing to have, but at the same time, I don't feel that the nature of one person's reporting should be based upon who they are. I feel like a journalist's skill set should be looked upon more than their background, colour or gender.

J-Source: Do you think the onus is on individuals who are part of a marginalized group and identify as such to bring these issues to the forefront in their schools or in the workplace?

Hreiche: For starters, this idea needs to be implemented in the educational system, and not only in journalism programs. In the end, journalism serves every profession, so emphasis needs to be placed in all educational areas. Also, I believe another one of our key starting points is for media institutions to realize how a diverse newsroom would alter their coverage on certain topics — in a profoundly good way. They need to realize that diversity fosters new discussions in a newsroom.

Tackling the Diversity Issue 

J-Source: As young journalists in the field, how do you see this lack of diversity manifesting in the quality of Canadian journalism?

Hreiche: I believe it's a two-way solution. Firstly, the media's power over public knowledge and education cannot be underestimated. So those that are already involved in the field need to shed some light. However, from my experiences thus far, I believe marginalized communities hold themselves back. They believe that since there aren't many of them out there, they can't make social change.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Judging based on the diversity that's here at my school right now I feel like diversity will soon be reflected in Canadian journalism. - Jeffrey Sze[/quote]

 

When I was accepted into the journalism program, those around me told me that I would not succeed because my background is Arab and Muslim, and I wear the hijab. When I started, I realized they’re right — there aren’t enough of us out here —but I came to the conclusion that if people hold themselves back from engaging and breaking misconceptions, then the world will never evolve. So it also starts with us.

Smith: I agree with Batoul, but we also need to address the back-pedalling of news media and media itself, as well as conservative backlash that many diverse news organizations, and the people they cater to, receive. 

Pertaining to the question Aeman mentioned earlier, I see a lack of diversity and equal coverage in foreign reporting. There is a standard of foreign reporting that I have found creates villains out immigrants. We have very little interest in going straight to the source. This definitely takes away from really great stories and causes our audiences to focus on the wrong ones. 

Sze: I think touching on the point I made earlier, we're going to be seeing a change in this industry, where diversity would be reflected, and I guess this would be an optimistic assumption. Judging based on the diversity that's here at my school right now I feel like diversity will soon be reflected in Canadian journalism. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Women in the news media still earn less than men for the same work. “Visible” minorities are still considered “quota filling” burdens. Just because we see more diverse cultures being addressed and hired as broadcasters, doesn’t mean it’s fixing the problem of diversity or lack of it in journalism. - Kaitlyn Smith [/quote]

J-Source: How do you plan on tackling this issue of diversity in the media when you are actively engaged in the field? If you decide to, what are practical ways in which you would do so? 

Sze: I don’t know about the term “tackling” the issue. But I think with the issue of diversity in media, I will try to be more aware with the stories I work on, the historical and social contexts that are behind the issue. 

Smith: I just wanted to touch on Sze’s last point. Sorry for being so slow, but, Jeff, I may be a little more cynical than you. I don't see the trend of a more diverse community in the future.

Perhaps it's because I'm still listed at the university level of journalism, but from what I can see, unless we actively do something, I feel that we’re starting to fall back into the dark ages.

Women in the news media still earn less than men for the same work. “Visible” minorities are still considered “quota filling” burdens. Just because we see more diverse cultures being addressed and hired as broadcasters, doesn’t mean it’s fixing the problem of diversity or lack of it in journalism.

Hreiche: When I’m actively engaged in the field, I dream of facilitating the process of diversifying the newsroom. While a diverse newsroom will not be created overnight, the change must be active.

So, for starters, I’d like to report on Canada’s lack of diversity in the industry because I feel it doesn’t receive much attention. I’m positive society realizes this already, but with more attention, if there are people who are afraid or nervous to break out of their shell because they so happen to be from a different cultural, ethnic, or religious background, a further spotlight on the issue may help push them forward.


Re-published with permission from J-Source.ca

by Cherise Seucharan (@CSeucharan) in Ottawa

An inclusive and equitable society can only be built through solidarity. This was the central message of Charles Taylor’s keynote at the Broadbent Institute’s 2015 Progress Summit in Ottawa this past weekend. The political philosopher spoke on Saturday about the danger of rising xenophobia and conservative sentiments, and gave thoughts on how to build a more inclusive Canada.

Taylor cited rising social and economic inequality as one of the central reasons for growing right-wing nationalist movements. Across the world, this trend affects ethnic and immigrant populations who face growing discrimination and alienation. This has also created divides within social movements, said Taylor, referring to political and labour groups whose aims have become more splintered over the last few generations.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Taylor criticized Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s anti-niqab comments as being part of dangerous and dividing rhetoric.[/quote]

In Canada, these divides can be seen in the debates over the Quebec Charter of Values, in which political groups across the spectrum, as well as ethnic and religious groups, became part of the discourse. Taylor criticized Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s anti-niqab comments as being part of dangerous and dividing rhetoric.

Taylor also spoke about how the creation of identity can foster inclusion or exclusion. By continuing to redefine what it means to be Canadian, we can encourage greater acceptance and diversity, he says.

Using France as an example of how identity can change over time, Taylor talked about how attitudes to immigration and what makes one “French” have become more limited. Several generations ago, people from all over Europe could assimilate into French society. Now, the country is often alienating to immigrants, especially those in the religious minority.

United Movements for Greater Good

In a question and answer period with student activist and author Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois (pictured to the right), Charles speculated on key lessons and solutions that can be taken from past movements such as the Quebec protests. He stressed that solidarity between groups was essential, created through one on one interaction with a diversity of people.

He also advocated for different movements and political parties to work together and recognize their similarities. Developing central, less specific aims could help create greater understanding. Taylor spoke about how the splintering of political and labour movements over the past few decades only creates further divides and hinders the achievement of common goals.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][Gabriel]Nadeau-Dubois posed a final question to Taylor: Are you optimistic about the future? Ultimately yes, Taylor concluded, to standing applause from hopeful audience members.[/quote]

Nadeau-Dubois and Taylor also discussed the value of encouraging young leadership. By supporting the participation of young people in the social and political sphere, we can build a more robust democracy, Taylor said.

Nadeau-Dubois posed a final question to Taylor: Are you optimistic about the future? Ultimately yes, Taylor concluded, to standing applause from hopeful audience members.

Putting the Vision into Action

Conference participants had differing reactions to Taylor’s speech. Post session discussions (which continued on Twitter as seen to the left) reflected on how Canada has changed since the Quebec protests and what work is still needed.

Kofi Hope, a conference participant who also spoke on the summit’s closing panel, thought that Taylor’s strategy of redefining identity is more difficult than it sounds due to existing stereotypes. “When people talk about fluid identity, no matter if you want to be fluid, you are already categorized by society because of how you look and how you dress.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It is a position of privilege to think of this place where you can define your identity.” - Kofi Hope[/quote]

Furthermore, Hope pointed out, diverse perspectives are needed when it comes to understanding identity. “It is a position of privilege to think of this place where you can define your identity,” he said, referring to how markers of skin tone, religious wear and many other things can force an identity upon someone.

Hope also thought Taylor’s point about creating solidarity between ethnic, religious and political groups was especially important. “There’s a difference between having empathy for a concept and having empathy for a person,” he said. “Because of how our brains are wired we need that interpersonal connection, to help us see people as human beings and see the texture and nuance of their lives.”

Ausma Malick, a Toronto activist who also spoke at the conference, thought that solidarity was especially important with respect to recent debates on religious and political freedom. “We also have to be very mindful of conservative fear-mongering forces that want to use these moments of complexity to drive us apart.”

She added that this is about much more than just knowing people. “Solidarity is about listening and learning and respecting, and being a good ally… But solidarity has to be an action and not just words.”

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Tuesday, 24 March 2015 16:22

Restoring a True Canadian Narrative

Written by

by Danica Samuel (@danicasamuel) in Toronto

It is time for Aboriginals to reclaim their power and influence in Canada. 

This is what author, essayist and president of PEN International John Ralston Saul is advocating for. Host of ‘A New Conversation: Indigenous and New Canadian Perspectives on Canada’ held at Ryerson University Monday night, Saul aims to bring this message to the forefront. He has already sparked a lot of global and national attention on citizenship and the public good with his books A Fair Country: Telling Truths about Canada and The Comeback.

“Here we are in the new Canadian city with the majority of its population unborn here, it is also the biggest reserve in Canada,” says Saul (pictured to the right). “There’s 75 to 100 thousand Aboriginals and there’s basically no conversation going on, between the people who are from here and the people who are coming here.” 

With both the Native and newcomer voice present, event panellists include: Indigenous author and poet, Lee Maracle, senior advisor to the president of the University of Manitoba, Ovide Mercredi, director of zone learning at Ryerson University, Randy Boyagoda, and executive director of the Global Diversity Exchange, Ratna Omidvar. 

After an opening prayer from Cree elder, Joanne Dallaire, panel members deliver individual opening statements, all underlining the main point: reissue the Canadian narrative back to its original state and find out what the original conversation surrounding Aboriginals consisted of. Furthermore, once the original conversation and narrative is brought to life, share it consistently.

Understanding History 

Mercredi says the lack of knowledge on the issues that Indigenous communities face stems from people not having an understanding of Canadian history. He then alludes that the majority of Aboriginals’ history was spent protecting themselves and avoiding poverty as an essence for survival. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“The conversation between the first peoples of Canada and the newest people of Canada is a vacuum, it does not happen.” - Ratna Omidvar, Global Diversity Exchange[/quote]

“Historically, the conversation between [Aboriginals], French and the English, didn’t go too well, because once they got a foothold of our territory they were dismissive of our people our culture and our own sovereignty,” explains Mercredi. 

“Then, began a process of displacement and a process of non-engagement. So, most of the history has been about trying to protect our history.” 

In parallel to Mercredi, Maracle states that European’s colonization over Canada has been nothing, but detrimental.

“Things changed when the British lost their rights to automatic citizenship. It changed because the people coming from the other parts of the world were people of colour,” she explains. “Although, the [British] didn’t lose their place as the dominant white male.” 

Dialogues Without Barriers

The panellists emphasized that the conversation around the land people come to needs to be accurately taught. Boyagoda explains that growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, the talk of native people in Canada was greatly circumvented.

“I probably lived through what I would describe as the institutionalization and professionalization of the conversation around Indigenous rights and relations with the rest of Canada,” he says. He adds the continuation of raw, in-depth conversations would be considered a “luxury good” to a lot of immigrants he knows..

But, Omidvar claims the issue is far more deeply rooted.

“The conversation between the first peoples of Canada and the newest people of Canada is a vacuum, it does not happen,” Omidvar says, passionately. “I think this is a result of the way the country has constructed itself, which encourages people to stay separate as opposed to coming together. It’s the way we have constructed our national narrative.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We have a short history as far as the nation states is concerned, it will be about 150 years old in 2017, when you’re celebrating these years, look around you, how many Indigenous people will be celebrating with you?” - Lee Maracle, University of Manitoba[/quote]

Maracle adds her narrative began with her not being a citizen at all.

“I am not a Canadian, because to say that I would have to say I colonized myself and I was happy doing it. I was under immigration until I was 12 years old and then one day they said you’re a citizen… of what?” she asks. “Who said [Aboriginals] wanted to be [‘Canadian’]. Nobody asked us.”

Making note of Maracle’s maltreatment, Mercredi encourages audience members to think about where their pride for the Canada they know comes from.  

“We have a short history as far as the nation states is concerned, it will be about 150 years old in 2017, when you’re celebrating these years, look around you, how many Indigenous people will be celebrating with you?” he asks. “If poverty remains the result of Canada becoming a nation’s state and the only opportunity we have on our traditional homelands there really isn’t much to celebrate. We have to envision a better country.”

Developing a Better Country

The panellists all put forth various ideas for how to move the Canadian narrative forward. Ratna says developing a better country involves all provinces working together, as some are progressing faster than others. According to Saul provinces like British Columbia, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are ahead in the discussion, but the Maritimes and Ontario fall short.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Stop using the languages that have been forced upon us by universities, because they teach European [education].” - John Ralston Saul[/quote]

Mercredi says that political parties should not dominate the conversations surrounding Indigenous and newcomers – a sentiment the audience applauds.

Saul says the first step in generating a new conversation is changing linguistics.

“Stop using the languages that have been forced upon us by universities, because they teach European [education],” he says. “All of the terminology like ‘nation state’ and ‘sovereignty’ come out of Eurocentric societies and are designed to create monolithic states. This is the fundamental contradiction in the conversation.”

Perhaps most poignant is elder Dallaire, who as she closes the event in prayer, encourages a simple way to start: take the conversation outside academic settings.

“When you meet up with your friends for a drinks bring this discussion to them, and let the conversation spread.”

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by Raul A. Pinto (@RaulAPinto) in Mississauga

Not long after I landed in Canada from Chile in 2010, I met a young man through some mutual friends. He was a high school dropout, and his reasons were pretty simple: he wasn’t a good student, and he didn’t know what to take after graduation, so he preferred to work.

It was rare for me to hear about people in their early 20s who hadn’t graduated high school. Despite still being a developing country, nearly 90 per cent of Chileans ages 25 to 34 are high school graduates. The education reform in the works over the last decade, with local students advocating for free education from the government, only promises a brighter future for Chileans. Today, some of the reform movement’s early leaders have even been elected to congress.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][T]he number of students with Spanish backgrounds dropping out of school reached an alarming 40 per cent in Toronto a few years ago.[/quote]

But it seems students who don’t finish high school, like the young man I met, are commonplace in Canada, despite being named as having the seventh-best educational system in the world in Pearson’s rankings. This is a serious issue, and the number of students with Spanish backgrounds dropping out of school reached an alarming 40 per cent in Toronto a few years ago. Today, measures taken have lowered the number to 21 per cent, with the overall dropout rate at 14 per cent. Better than before, but still not ideal.

What Parents Say

Gustavo Rizzo, an Argentinean Pentecostal minister, has been living and working in Spanish-Canadian churches for 12 years since he, his wife and three children emigrated here. Rizzo says it is extremely hard to tutor your children when you are not originally from Canada.

“I think about three things,” he says. “First is the language barrier, because we need to communicate with our kids’ teachers; second, the educational system, which is completely a different thing than the one my wife and I had; and third, as a consequence of the second, the difficulties we have for helping our kids.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We had been living in Canada a few years… By that time, we already managed the language pretty well. But the educational system was way different than the one we had back home.” - Guido, parent[/quote]

Colombian natives Guido and Rossy, who prefer only their first names be published, are parents of three daughters, and their experience sending the eldest to first grade was a rude awakening to the Canadian educational system.

“We had been living in Canada a few years… By that time, we already managed the language pretty well. But the educational system was way different than the one we had back home,” explains Guido. “In kindergarten, they told us that before first grade, playtime was the major objective. And when she started first grade the school wanted her to already know some basic things about reading. Every time I had asked previously, I was repeatedly told that daycare and kindergarten were meant to be for playtime. And after a couple of months in first grade they said our daughter was behind in her reading. Nobody paid attention to us when we said what happened in kindergarten. We understood then that in this culture the schools expect us to do the biggest part in teaching our kids to read instead of just helping. For me the idea is that schools here aid and reinforce the education they (the children) receive from home.”  

What Experts Say

Luz Bascuñan, the first Latin American woman to be elected as a trustee at the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), shared her views on Spanish student dropout rates in the 2009 publication “Four in Ten Spanish-Speaking Youth and Early School Leaving in Toronto.” In it, Bascuñan reduced the problem to four factors: the hiring system, the status of Spanish language in Toronto’s schools, the school curriculum and the lack of formal structures for parent and community involvement.

Today, she says the amalgamation of Toronto in 1998 also negatively impacted the education system, and she calls things like Ontario regulation 612/00, which installed parent involvement committees “a very generic way” to address parents not getting involved.

“Involving parents in their children’s education, which is key to educational success, cannot be done only because there’s a regulation,” Bascuñan says. “It’s necessary to develop a number of different initiatives. Back in the day, before the amalgamation, we had funding enough to make monthly meetings with parents, when we had trained child care workers to take care of the kids while the parents were there, we had interpreters for all the different languages, and we had dinner for everyone, solving the biggest problems parents use as an excuse for not going.”

The problems for Guido and Rossy’s daughter got worse with pressure from the school, with calls and letters telling them how behind their daughter was. “Some teachers suggested maybe our daughter had listening or speech problems, or having some family issues at home,” Guido shares.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]I think parents that came from other countries are really concerned of their kids’ education. In fact, a better education was one of the main reasons why they immigrated here in the first place.” - Esther Contreras, Peel District School Board teacher[/quote]

“As soon as the problems arose we started helping her every night after school until today,” Guido continues. “They’re nice at schools, very polite, but I think they try to evade being blamed for any problem that my daughter had. It’s true, at my house we try to only speak Spanish, but she speaks English too… she could talk in both languages with no problem. Even so, once a teacher told me to put her in ESL classes. And every time you asked for help they give you a long list of websites instead of talking to you any longer. We took her to all the doctors they sent us, and when we realized she didn’t have any medical problem, her teachers changed the nature of the issue over and over.”

Esther Contreras (who requested her name be changed) knows the problem first-hand. Born in Canada with Spanish parents, she is a teacher at the Peel District School Board (PDSB).

I think parents that came from other countries are really concerned of their kids’ education. In fact, a better education was one of the main reasons why they immigrated here in the first place,” she explains.

Contreras can speak with Spanish parents in their mother tongue, but for parents, who speak other foreign languages, interpreters must be requested — the school must “make an appointment, and wait until the PDSB’s office sends somebody.” 

Tackling the Problem

The local government has taken steps to address the situation. Some programs in Toronto are including Spanish teachers in their after-school homework clubs, and as Bascuñan says, “even when TDSB is still running behind, it has improved in the last years.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I don’t think teachers here are educated enough about newcomers’ issues and the impact that immigration really has on the students.” - Esther Contreras, Peel District School Board teacher[/quote]

In June 2010, the PDSB released a study commissioned by its Parent Involvement Committee. The results were synthesized in 12 points, which covered the importance of heavily involving parents in the education of their children, including a stronger approach from the principal of every school, and more support for teachers encouraging parent involvement in school strategies. Teachers said “positive first” phone calls are a great strategy, unlike the types of calls Guido and Rossy received in the past that stressed them out.

However, Contreras says it is necessary to find a way to have more workshops. “I don’t think teachers here are educated enough about newcomers’ issues and the impact that immigration really has on the students.”

Of course, since then, Guido and Rossy have taken a different approach with their other two girls, teaching them the alphabet and some basic words early on. “And it worked,” says Guido. “My second daughter is in first grade and she is reading well already.”

And the oldest one? “In second grade they started teaching her math, and since she ‘couldn’t read,’ learning math was difficult, but not anymore. She’s in fifth grade and she is finally catching up now.”

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by Rhea Castillo (@rheacastillo3) in Calgary

Over 100 people across Canada have taken up the extremist agenda as a result of social media messages. This is according to Yvon de Champlain of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). And, an increasing number of Canadian youth are making headlines as victims of extremism. The Extreme Dialogue project, recently launched out of Calgary, Alberta, is working to curb this reality.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Groups like ISIS offer as a master class in how to reach those hearts and minds. They’re using high quality product, compelling, if disgusting, imagery, and they’re going right for the jugular. They are fighting for our young people.” - Rachel Briggs, Institute for Strategic Dialogue[/quote]

The school-based program, aimed at teens aged 14 to 18, consists of a series of short documentary films, which strike at the hearts and minds of our youth, by showing those profoundly affected by extremism telling their own stories, unscripted. Rachel Briggs, Senior Fellow with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, which helped develop the project, says that, “Groups like ISIS offer as a master class in how to reach those hearts and minds. They’re using high quality product, compelling, if disgusting, imagery, and they’re going right for the jugular. They are fighting for our young people.”

Footage from the launch of the Extreme Dialogue Project in Calgary, Alberta. 

The films, shot by Duckrabbit, offer raw insight into the realities of people like Christianne Boudreau, whose son Damian Clairmont died fighting with Islamic extremists in Syria in 2014, and Daniel Gallant, who spent a decade involved with white supremacist groups. Boudreau described the filming process as, “a whole week, from morning until evening, every day, round the clock, letting us tell our stories and our feelings and what we experienced as a family, how it impacted us, what’s still on our minds, what do we still have to live with, and the results of that.” Likewise, Gallant’s February 20 blog entry on his filming experience with the two members of Duckrabbit shows the deep connection made between the film subjects and the video production team. It wasn’t all doom and gloom. The result is raw and impactful. 

Using Real-Life Narratives

Boudreau’s film starts with her telling us that she “never thought” she would be watching videos of Syria on the Internet, searching for her son’s face with her “nose pressed up to the screen.” She recalls how her 22-year-old son, “would talk about his passion for helping others and (question) how we could sit in our comfortable homes and do nothing.” He repeatedly verbalized these sentiments and she knew that something was off, but due to the stigma and fear surrounding subject, as well as a lack of resources, she did not get the help needed.

The film is of her and her younger son, Luke, dealing with the death of Damian together, moving through their sorrow together, even sending up messages to him in helium-filled balloons on his birthday to, “celebrate who he was in his heart and not how he died.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The films come with accompanying educational resources to guide classroom conversation...For example, [Christianne] Boudreau’s explores topics such as ‘points of intervention’ and ‘the ripple effect’ whereas [Daniel] Gallant’s tackles ‘them and us: black and white thinking’ and ‘moving on’.[/quote]

Gallant’s film (screen shot to the left) begins with him laughing and reminiscing about joyful snapshots from his youth, from a funny haircut to dressing up for Halloween. Likewise, raw emotion is there for the viewer to read into and empathize with, as close-up shots of his face and the emotion in his eyes amplifies his account of seeing his first step-dad beat and rape his mother in front of him. And it is because the viewer is provided with a multi-hued, specific context for Gallant’s extremist involvement that it refuses this as a label and an end point for him. Instead, his story becomes something for students to discuss, interpret, and understand.    

The films come with accompanying educational resources to guide classroom conversation. The resource packs are extensive and specific to each film. For example, Boudreau’s explores topics such as ‘points of intervention’ and ‘the ripple effect’ whereas Gallant’s tackles ‘them and us: black and white thinking’ and ‘moving on’.  

Channelling youth idealism in positive ways

Briggs of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue states that, “Extremists offer quite an exciting call to action to idealistic young people who, as we all used to do, want to right the wrongs that we see in the world around us.” The message the institute wants to convey is that: These youth are not different from us in their idealistic desire to make the world a better place, and we must find a way to harness this idealism and channel it in positive ways.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Violent extremism can affect absolutely anybody from anywhere at any time. It just has to be that vulnerable moment when a youth gets approached… so we need to start having those hard conversations with our youth and preparing them with the tools that they need to go forward.” - Christianne Boudreau[/quote]

The Extreme Dialogue project aims to help youth develop critical thinking skills in an effort to counter extremist recruitment. In the case of Boudreau, her son was depressed and withdrawn some time and when he found the religion of Islam in 2008 she was happy that he had found something positive to latch on to. He seemed, “more comfortable in his own skin,” she explains, but, “unfortunately, as he was on that path he met the wrong person at the wrong time and that’s what diverted everything,” she adds.

With extremist groups being both social media savvy and adept at staying on the right side of the law, youth cannot be shielded from extremist propaganda. What the Extreme Dialogue project’s organizers hope is youth have also encountered and engaged with strong counter-narratives to the extent that they can critically assess such messaging and turn away. As Boudreau says, “Violent extremism can affect absolutely anybody from anywhere at any time. It just has to be that vulnerable moment when a youth gets approached… so we need to start having those hard conversations with our youth and preparing them with the tools that they need to go forward.”  

by Maryann D’Souza & Mourad Haroutunian (@MHaroutunianTO) in Toronto

In part two of NCM’s coverage of the reactions amongst the ethnic/immigrant communities to Ontario’s sex education curriculum changes, our reporters focus on South Asian and Arab Canadians. To read part one, click here.

Most South Asians are uncomfortable talking about sex. That’s it plain and simple. And living in another part of the world hasn’t changed that, especially for Generation X. There might be a few that are somewhat open-minded, but even those hesitate when the time comes to have ‘that talk’ with their children. No surprise, therefore, that many in the community have added their voices to the growing group that is protesting the new sex-ed curriculum being implemented in Ontario schools this September.

Too Much Too Soon

It’s too much too soon say some of the protestors. Seven is a “sensitive age” and “too early” to be discussing concepts like homosexuality with their kids. In a recent article in the Weekly Voice, Jotvinder Sodi (founder of the Home Owners Welfare Association in Peel Region) spoke out on behalf of a group of “concerned” Brampton parents who organized a meeting to gather support against the curriculum.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]What many may not readily admit though is that, generally amongst South Asians, this discussion is not welcome at any age.[/quote]

 

“We fear that the proposed subjects could be about homosexuality and anal sex and discussions about puberty and masturbation. We believe that these are age sensitive material, age five to seven is too young to be exposed with this type of knowledge,” wrote Sodi.

Discussion is Permission

What many may not readily admit though is that, generally amongst South Asians, this discussion is not welcome at any age. Shazia Malik captured this sentiment in her article in the South Asian Daily. She referred to a caller on the South Asian PULSE Radio who said that, “He, as a father cannot dare talk to his young son about these matters openly, how will those be discussed in the class?”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Teaching small kids about sex means putting something in innocent minds which could backfire... it could have exactly the opposite effect than that it purportedly hopes to prevent." - Surjit Singh Flora[/quote]

Surjit Singh Flora, whose protests are written in a number of community publications, made his feelings clear in a Can-India News article. “Teaching small kids about sex means putting something in innocent minds which could backfire. They might take it the other way around… and it could have exactly the opposite effect than that it purportedly hopes to prevent — more rape crimes and sex abuse on the streets, at home, clubs, schools, bars, etc.,” he wrote.

“We don’t want our kids to get the idea that we are giving them permission to go ahead,” one mother said, on condition of anonymity.

Angst Amongst Liberals and Conservatives

Within the Arab community, much like amongst South Asians, there is overwhelming disdain for the new curriculum, which hasn’t been updated since 1998. In fact, both Liberal and Conservative minded Coptic-Canadians teamed up this week to voice their opposition at a protest outside of Queen’s Park, initiated by various community organizations.

“Mississauga’s Coptic churches had a strong presence in the event,” reported Good News, a Canadian–Coptic newspaper, on its online platform. A number of buses transported protesters from Mississauga under the auspices of Father Maximos Rizkalla, the pastor of the Church of St. Mary And St. Athanasius, the paper added.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It is utterly unacceptable to see the government overstep their boundaries to take on the parental role while failing to deliver to their mandate.” - Ghada Melek[/quote]

Protesters held banners reading: “It’s a parent right to teach their children about sex,” “Math, not masturbation; science, not sex,” and “What’s next? Safe animal sex?”

“It is utterly unacceptable to see the government overstep their boundaries to take on the parental role while failing to deliver to their mandate,” Ghada Melek, one of many activists who called for the protest, wrote on her Facebook page on Feb. 24.

“Today's rally sent a loud and clear message to the Wynne government that we oppose her proposed sex education to our children,” added Melek, a Copt, who debuted her political career last year when ran (and didn’t win) for Mississauga Ward 6 councillor.

Political Leaders Speak Out

Sheref Sabawy, an influential Coptic activist from the Federal Liberal party, did not abstain from joining the consensus of his community and supporting his rivals, the Conservative party.

“I am adding my voice and efforts to all Ontario parents who are concerned with the new sex ed curriculum,” Sabawy wrote on his Facebook page. “There will be no new curriculum before full consultation with parents.”

Sabawy says he believes parents should be consulted through town hall meetings, questionnaires, or, if needed, written consent of parents. “Liberal values are clear to me and do not mean immorality,” he says.

Politicians in the South Asian community also spoke out against the curriculum. The Weekly Voice and South Asia Mail reported former MPP Harinder Takhar (who served under Premier Dalton McGuinty) as saying that he had advised McGuinty against implementing the curriculum in 2010. He maintains this view stating that, “a serious debate is required in the community on this issue.” The same report also states Conservative MP Parm Gill’s apprehensions. Gill said that being the father of three children, the new syllabus is a cause of concern for him. He was of the opinion that the Liberal party had, “destroyed the institution of marriage and now it is (sic) on its way to put our children on the wrong track.”

Not All Opposed

There are some who support the provincial governments move, though their voices may be barely audible amongst the loud clatter of all the protestors. Two of the five parents interviewed by Can-India News thought it was, “about time.”

“Parents opposing the new sex-ed curriculum are living in denial. Schools should be discussing these issues and giving students the information they need,” said one parent, identified only as Parineet. “They should know about these things because everyone talks about it in schools and it is easy for them to get the wrong idea or information from friends or the Internet. The school would do it scientifically and professionally.”

Irrespective of how parents feel, Premier Kathleen Wynne is determined that the new sex-ed curriculum will be implemented this time. How much of a difference it will make is another matter though, as parents will have the option of pulling their children out of sex-ed classes.

{module NCM Blurb}

by Mark A. Cadiz @markacadiz & Shan Qiao in Toronto

Many parents throughout Ontario were up in arms about the new sex education curriculum announced Feb. 23, feeling they were excluded as part of the process.

The new curriculum, which is expected roll out in September, has received harsh criticism from some parents in various communities across Ontario.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We feel that our role as parents [is] being undermined and this is one of the problems… they are going ahead as if we didn’t exist.” - Firas Marish, Parents Against Ontario Sex-Ed[/quote]

Firas Marish from Oakville, Ont. is one of the community leaders behind Parents Against Ontario Sex-Ed (PAOSE), a Facebook community group, which launched yesterday. He isn’t holding back with his discontent, and he isn’t alone. The page, in the last 24 hours has already gathered 1200 likes.

“We feel that our role as parents [is] being undermined and this is one of the problems… they are going ahead as if we didn’t exist,” Marish said. “The goal is to protect our kids and we appreciate that move and we support it, but what we are seeing doesn’t serve that goal.”

Marish says with these new changes the government is trying to impose a certain ideology or lifestyle upon his children without his consultation. He, like many other parents, says he believes it is his right to educate his children about sex when he deems it is appropriate. To him, the school’s role is a secondary one on the issue.

He adds that to his knowledge, even school trustees were not informed properly.

What Will Be Taught

Many in the Chinese community agree on sex education being taught, but not as early as Grade 3. Many parents are even more angry when they know content like same-sex relationships will be discussed under the new curriculum. 

Jessica Gao, a mother who has a four-year-old boy and a newborn daughter, appealed to all her parents’ friends on the popular Chinese social app WeChat to sign an online petition and oppose the new Ontario sex ed curriculum. 

“Growing up in a typical reserved Chinese family, I know how important it is to have sex education and safe sex prevention before we enter our adulthood,” said Gao, who currently stays home taking care of her one-month-old daughter. “Lacking of proper sex education in China results so many teenage abortions. However, do I want my children to learn sexual orientation before he even turns 10 years old? I don’t think so. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“I wish Catholic schools will not use this curriculum. I think Grade 8 is still too young to understand what they feel… discussing sex orientation will confuse them more or less.” - North York mother[/quote]

Gao, like many other parents, is concerned about when Ontario sex ed curriculum when particular content will be introduced to her children, not to mention, some content will be accompanied with offensive graphics related to masturbation and sexual intimacy. 

Catherine Fang, a North York mother who sent her six-year-old boy to a Catholic school, opposes the new sex ed curriculum for introducing sex orientation in Grade 8. “I wish Catholic schools will not use this curriculum. I think Grade 8 is still too young to understand what they feel… discussing sex orientation will confuse them more or less,” she says. 

Other parents like Markham area resident Jason Huang wonders whether private schools in Ontario will adopt the curriculum or not. “I think it is too aggressive to introduce subjects such as homosexuality. I have no problem to support the rights for homosexual people, but where is the right to not know this at a fairly young age for heterosexual children like mine?” he asks. 

Chinese media, on the other hand, have been covering this sensitive matter without any sensitivity. Words such as “anal sex” and “oral sex” appear frequently on headlines for the story, including in Singtao Daily News and Mingpao Daily News and on Fairchild TV. The coverage focuses mostly on those who oppose. 

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“It depends how it will be handled by teachers, because if it’s not handled properly it could be destructive for children.” - Linda Javier, Filipino Centre of Toronto[/quote]

Mingpao Daily News interviewed several parents from Hong Kong and Mainland China who went to Queen’s Park to oppose on Monday. All of them express their wariness to the new sex ed curriculum as “too much” and “too early”. 

“We believe in one man and one woman marriage. We want the Ontario sex ed curriculum to cover more on this part as well,” Dr. Peter Chen, Spokesperson of Toronto Chinese Catholic Task Force told Fairchild TV at Monday’s rally against the curriculum. 

How It Will Be Taught

Retired junior high teacher and now president of the Filipino Centre of Toronto, Linda Javier, is more concerned about the delivery of the new sex education curriculum, not the material itself.

“It depends how it will be handled by teachers, because if it’s not handled properly it could be destructive for children,” Javier said. “The success will largely depend on the training that the teachers will get, in order to deliver this curriculum in such a way that it’s taught to the children properly.”

She says the intention of the program is helpful considering the advancement in digital technology, however, she doesn’t believe that from now until September will be sufficient time for teachers to be trained accordingly.

“Whatever is included in the new curriculum is intended to be helpful, it wasn’t intended to harm children,” she said. “But there are ramifications, there needs to be constant follow-ups and analysis to see if it is working.”

And this is the problem for Marish, there is no proof that this will actually make a positive difference, “it’s just trial-and-error,” he said.

In Marish’s culture, pre-marital sex is not promoted and he plans to pass those cultural values to his six-year-old daughter and two-year-old son.

“For my culture we don’t have sexual relationships outside the constitution of marriage, but now all of a sudden it’s being heavily promoted by schools, and not just sex, but different forms of sex… oral sex and anal sex,” Marish said.

This promotion of sex at such a young age does more harm than good and contradicts what he would teach his kids at home Marish continued.

Common Ground

What Marish would like to see is an immediate suspension of the new sex education program and a true inclusive consultation with parents from a variety of backgrounds.

“We want to sit down with educators and people from different backgrounds, different lifestyles and different beliefs and play it fair… I’m sure that we can sit down and come up with something that is satisfactory and protects everybody, we’ve done it before in this country and we can do it again,” he said.

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by Daniel Munro

In general, holding a PhD in Canada is associated with good employment outcomes. But while aggregate outcomes are good, immigrants with PhDs do not fare nearly as well as non-immigrants. In many cases, immigrants with PhDs have weaker labour market outcomes than Canadians with no post-secondary education credentials at all. Immigrants with PhDs have important contributions to make to Canada’s economic and social well-being, but a number of barriers limit their ability to effectively use and benefit from their education and skills.

Who holds PhDs and where were they earned? 

As Table 1 shows, the proportion of PhDs held by immigrants and non-immigrants in Canada is roughly equal—50.4 per cent and 49.6 per cent, respectively. Just over three in five (62.2 per cent) were earned at Canadian institutions and nearly two in five (37.8 per cent) were earned from institutions outside Canada. Of the PhDs earned at Canadian institutions, nearly two-thirds were earned by non-immigrants (accounting for 40.4 per cent of all PhDs held in Canada) and the other third by immigrants (accounting for 21.8 per cent of all PhDs). By contrast, three-quarters of doctorates earned abroad were earned by immigrants, while one-quarter were earned by non-immigrants (accounting for 28.6 and 9.2 per cent of all PhDs, respectively).

Immigrants who earned their doctorates abroad were most likely to have done so in the United States (23 per cent), United Kingdom (12 per cent), France (9 per cent), China (8 per cent), India (6 per cent), or Germany (3.5 per cent). The remaining 39 per cent were earned from institutions in a wide diversity of countries. Nearly all of the non-immigrants who earned doctorates abroad did so in one of only three countries—the United States (67 per cent), United Kingdom (18 per cent), and France (6 per cent).

Location of study natters more for immigrants than non-immigrants

Employment outcomes are significantly weaker for immigrant PhDs than they are for non-immigrant PhDs. Non-immigrants, whether they earned their doctorates in Canada or abroad, have a labour force participation rate over 90 per cent, an employment rate of 88 per cent, and very low unemployment at 2.9 per cent. Immigrants who earned their doctorates in Canada have similar participation and employment rates, but their unemployment rate is noticeably higher at 4.3 per cent.

For immigrants who earned doctorates from institutions outside Canada, the situation is troubling. This cohort has lower labour force participation and employment rates, and an unemployment rate of 6.2 per cent—more than twice the rate of non-immigrants with PhDs (see Table 2) and equal to the unemployment rate for all education levels in Canada. Collectively, the nearly 50,000 immigrants in Canada who earned their doctorates abroad enjoy virtually no employment advantage when compared with Canada’s population regardless of educational attainment. That said, immigrant PhDs fare better than immigrants without PhDs in the Canadian labour market.

What explains the difference in outcomes?

Immigrants are less likely than non-immigrants to have studied in a country whose credentials are easily recognized and trusted by Canadian employers. While immigrants who earned their doctorates in the United States had an unemployment rate of only 3 per cent—in line with the unemployment rate of non-immigrants with doctorates—less than a quarter earned their doctorates from the United States. Immigrants who earned their doctorates in countries other than the U.S. or U.K. experience much higher rates of unemployment.

But location of study explains only part of the difference. Regardless of where they earn their PhDs, immigrants face a range of employment barriers, including less-developed employment networks, language barriers, and racism. Immigrants with PhDs fare much better than immigrants without PhDs, but they face difficult transitions, achieve only a slim advantage over non-immigrants with lower education, and continue to lag well behind their non-immigrant peers with PhDs.

Understanding and addressing the many barriers to immigrant PhDs is critical to ensuring that both they and Canada’s economy and society as a whole can benefit from the advanced education and skills they have obtained. The ongoing work of The Conference Board of Canada’s Centre for Skills and Post-Secondary Education and National Immigration Centre explores various dimensions of the challenges facing immigrants—those with and without PhDs. It will shed light on changes that might be required as to how immigrant PhDs are educated and trained in Canada, as well as how immigrants are selected and integrated into the Canadian economy and society more generally. Watch for future commentaries and reports from both centres in 2015.


Daniel Munro has over ten years of experience in research and policy analysis on education, skills, innovation, and science and technology issues. He is is a Principal Research Associate in Public Policy at The Conference Board of Canada, and Lecturer in Ethics in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa. 

Re-published with permission.

by Charles Ungerleider in Vancouver 

It isn't often that I have the luxury of watching television, but, when I see Discovery Channels’ Mythbusters, it makes me smile. The hosts use their knowledge of science to entertainingly debunk myths. I've often thought that, if the program did some education myth-busting, it would be doing a public service.  The problem with my idea is that busting educational myths depends on logic and research, topics that don’t have much visual appeal.

I’m guessing that’s why David Berliner and Gene Glass, two educational researchers with international reputations, chose to write book to expose 50 Myths & Lies that Threaten America’s Public Schools (Teachers College Press, 2014). Their book makes use of logic and evidence to refute common myths and outright lies that are made about American public schools. Some of those myths and lies are applied to Canadian public schooling, too: Private schools are better than public schools; Teachers of the poor are not very talented; Homework boosts student achievement, and others. One myth often applied to Canadian schools that Berliner and Glass do not tackle is that immigrants drive down school rankings.

Before tackling that myth, it is important to know that school rankings are, at best, misleading and, at worst, dishonest. It is important to recognize that the methodology used to produce school rankings compares each school with every other school being ranked. Those comparisons are normalized, meaning that the results of the comparisons are manipulated to distribute the results (school scores) so that half of the schools fall below the average school score and the other half of the schools above the average.  When I point that out to parents, someone correctly points out, “That means that, if all schools improved by 50%, there would still be half of the schools below the average score.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]While it is true that immigrant students have lower levels of print literacy upon entering school, the differences between them and their non-immigrant peers is reduced over time with good instruction and exposure to positive English language role models.[/quote]

Flaws in school ranking

People who produce school rankings based on student achievement conveniently ignore some of the other flaws in the logic. For example, they ignore that student achievement is a product of all of the prior in-school and out-of-school experiences that a student has had up to the point when the achievement is assessed. One implication of that in a highly mobile society is that holding a particular school accountable for the achievement of the students currently enrolled in that school probably places too much weight on the school’s influence and understates other influences.

What we know from the lengthy history of studying student achievement is that, while schools – and especially the quality of instruction that students receive in schools – matter, factors outside of school matter more. Parental influence is one of the factors affecting how and how well students achieve in school. The amount and quality of interaction between parents and their children makes a difference. The value that parents ascribe to school and the respect they accord to teachers affects how their children view their school experience and their teachers.

Family income affects student achievement in several ways. Families living in impoverished circumstances (see report on research done in Ontario) have children who are less healthy. Those children are typically less likely to have seen a dentist or a doctor than their more advantaged peers. One reason is that parents struggling to make ends meet often work multiple low-paying jobs. If they take time from work, they lose pay. If employers think they are taking too much unpaid time off, they risk being replaced. Under such circumstances, the necessity of a visit to the dentist or physician can become a luxury that they cannot afford.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][I]mmigrant students often perform as well or better in mathematics and science than their Canadian-born peers.[/quote]

On the other hand, more advantaged parents have time and resources they can invest in their children. They can ensure that their children receive regular dental and medical checkups. They can afford more nutritious food. They can attend school meetings and meetings with their children’s teachers. In addition, they can afford experiences such as after school activities and summer camps that are beyond the reach of their less advantaged peers. All other things being equal, children whose parents are better off reap educational advantages and benefits.

Challenging circusmtances

Children who live in more challenging circumstances sometimes struggle with school work. If they are classes where the students come from varied backgrounds, they benefit from having peers who are not struggling – especially if the more advantaged peers are in the majority. If poor children live and attend school with children from the same background, they are deprived of the positive peer influences of those more advantaged youngsters.

While it is true that immigrant students have lower levels of print literacy upon entering school, the differences between them and their non-immigrant peers is reduced over time with good instruction and exposure to positive English language role models. However, immigrant students often perform as well or better in mathematics and science than their Canadian-born peers. If school rankings take into account performance in a variety of subjects, the performance of immigrant students should not diminish the overall ranking of the school.

It is interesting that the reverse is not true. More advantaged children do not suffer from being in a school where most of the children are poor. This is likely a consequence of the very strong influence that having advantaged parents confers as well as living in communities that are relatively more advantaged. In other words, affluence appears to be a protective factor for advantaged learners.

Socio-economic segregation is another story.  A concentration of low income students will have a negative effect on a school’s rankings just as the concentration of high income students will have a beneficial effect. As you have probably inferred, I do not have much interest in or regard for school rankings.  But I have a very strong interest in encouraging school boards to ensure that school boundaries do not separate groups on socio-economic lines. 


Charles Ungerleider, a Professor Emeritus of Educational Studies at The University of British Columbia, is Managing Partner of Directions Evidence and Policy Research Group, LLP,  a partnership of professionals with experience in applied research, policy analysis and evaluation in a variety of domains, including K-12 and post-secondary education, social services, justice, and health. He has served as Deputy Minister of Education in British Columbia, Director of Research and Knowledge Mobilization at the Canadian Council on Learning, and Associate Dean (Teacher Education) at The University of British Columbia. 

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Tuesday, 21 October 2014 19:44

Not All Immigrant Children Created Equal

Written by

by Charles Ungerleider in Vancouver

Canada’s economic prosperity and population depend upon immigration. Canada would not exist nor could it survive without immigration. Population maintenance depends upon immigration. The Canadian birth rate per woman is in the region of 1.6, far below the replacement ratio of approximately 2.1 births per woman. Canada’s economic prosperity is linked to having enough well educated people to support an increasingly dependent population.

A high proportion of recent immigrants have university degrees. In fact, by 2001, the portion of immigrants with university degrees was about twice that of the Canadian-born population. Although their parents are well educated, the children of immigrants still face challenges in school. The children of immigrants have lower reading literacy levels than their Canadian-born counterparts. It is fortunate that, over time, this disadvantage disappears for most students, but not all. Despite lower reading literacy, most recent immigrants perform better on average than their Canadian-born counterparts in mathematics and sciences.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]... it is important to ensure that students acquire facility in English or French for academic purposes prior to enrolling in courses that depend on such fluency.[/quote]

As most people recognize, group averages can hide significant variation among groups. When we look beyond the averages for immigrant students, we notice that immigrants from particular backgrounds are doing less well than their peers.  Students from Asian immigrant backgrounds are so numerous and, in general, so successful in school, that their performance obscures the results of the students from other immigrant backgrounds who find Canadian schooling more challenging, who perform less well and sometimes leave school prior to graduation.

Time is one of the challenges faced by immigrant students trying to learn English or French in school. Often they do not have sufficient time to both learn the language for academic purposes and to gather sufficient credits for graduation. The problem is compounded in those jurisdictions that place age limits on who can attend school and limits on the amount of additional support that students are able to receive. Older immigrant students are especially challenged by the limited time they can attend school.

Socio-economic factors

Confusion arising from different cultural expectations is also a challenge for immigrant students and for their parents. The prominence given to student engagement, critical thinking and questioning is sometimes quite different than the prior experiences that some immigrant students have had. For some students and parents, Canadian schools seem less demanding and too informal than their prior school experiences. The mismatch in expectations and experiences between prior and current school experiences adds to the challenge faced by immigrant students and their parents.

Immigrant students whose parents have neither educational nor economic advantages are often among those who find school more challenging, perform less well and leave school early. Even among those who graduate from high school, there are socio-economic differences between those who attend post-secondary school and those who do not, favouring those whose parents are more advantaged.

Child refugees or children of refugees who have not had the benefit of schooling prior to arrival in Canada are among the most challenged. Lacking familiarity with schools, prior school socialization, and basic literacy makes school a daunting set of challenges for refugee students.

Beyond averages

Over the course of their history, Canadian schools have become better at welcoming and educating immigrant students. There are many factors that have contributed to the noticeable improvement. Canadian society is less overtly discriminatory than in the past when immigration was restricted to persons of European origin. While it has not completely freed itself from its past, Canada has acknowledged and apologized to descendants of Canadians of Japanese, Punjabi, Chinese and other backgrounds whose ancestors were excluded and mistreated. This has contributed to a national climate more accepting of difference that influences all of Canada’s institutions, including its schools.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Immigrant students whose parents have neither educational nor economic advantages are often among those who find school more challenging ...[/quote]

Schools have recognized that early and continuing intervention is necessary whenever students exhibit evidence of being challenged – especially in the acquisition of literacy. Parents whose children appear fluent in social contexts with friends often infer that their children possess the requisite knowledge to succeed in courses demanding greater facility with the language than is normally used in social discourse. Although it challenges the expectations and aspirations of those parents, it is important to ensure that students acquire facility in English or French for academic purposes prior to enrolling in courses that depend on such fluency.

Schools know that they must observe student progress closely and make adjustments to the education and supports that immigrant students require to be successful in the school environment. This requires looking beyond group averages to see how individual students are succeeding.

Canada’s need for immigrants often translates into action designed to increase the likelihood of school success because adult productivity, health and engaged citizenship are built upon a foundation of successful schooling. But action is not uniform across all schools or for all immigrant students. To ensure greater uniformity, we need better policies, practices, close monitoring and a willingness to change practice and policy when the evidence suggests that they are not working to the advantage of all students. 


Charles Ungerleider, a Professor Emeritus of Educational Studies at The University of British Columbia, is Managing Partner of Directions Evidence and Policy Research Group, LLP,  a partnership of professionals with experience in applied research, policy analysis and evaluation in a variety of domains, including K-12 and post-secondary education, social services, justice, and health. He has served as Deputy Minister of Education in British Columbia, Director of Research and Knowledge Mobilization at the Canadian Council on Learning, and Associate Dean (Teacher Education) at The University of British Columbia. 

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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