Times have changed quite significantly and Canada’s current study policies have become much more stringent. This has been driven purely by the fact that Canada has become an incredibly desirable place to study. The top 150 universities now have much more discretion on who can enter, and so is now able to pick and choose from the applicants.
A STABLE DEMOCRACY
Canada has created a robust and pioneering democracy. The government structure reflects the British models of liberal democracy, but at the same time has uniquely British features.
Education in Canada
Education standards in Canada are amongst the highest in the world, and Federal and State Governments have ensured that these standards are regulated and maintained. The Federal Department of Employment, Education, and Training is the main government body responsible for the overall education policies, ensuring that there is a consistency of standards throughout Canada.
Access to quality education has always been seen by Canada as part of their child’s birthright and community involvement in monitoring the standard of education is very high.
Our post will describe to you that Toronto why you have to want to go to study in Canada?
Primary and Secondary Education System in Toronto, Canada for Pakistani Students
Primary and secondary school education in Toronto is directed by a higher government body, in this instance, however, the provincial authorities. Since Canada’s Constitution of 1867, education has been established as the domain of the provinces and not the federal government. The Ministry of Education in Ontario is thus charged to set the curriculum for Toronto’s school boards. In Ontario, all permanent residents between the ages of 6 and 16 must attend school. School boards are required to offer a minimum of 194 school days for elementary (grades 1–6), middle (grades 7–8) and high school (grades 9–12) (MOE 2007). At the discretion of the school board, this is often divided into three terms for elementary and middle schools, and two terms for high school, based on a five day week.
The setup for Toronto’s primary and secondary schools reflects the history of Toronto pre–World War Two. Many of the early promoters of public education in Toronto were closely associated with Christian churches and advocated a public education system grounded in Christian values—evident in the city’s four major publicly funded school boards. The largest, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) was created in 1998 following the merger of former municipalities’ school boards. With a student population of 181,000 in 451 primary schools and 89,000 in 104 secondary schools, it is also Canada’s largest school board, with an annual budget of CA $2.3 billion (~ US $2.1 billion) (TDSB 2007).
The ethnic diversity of the TDSB mirrors the city’s demographics. Almost half of TDSB students speak English as their second language, with more than 80 languages represented as the first language. More than 80,000 (30 percent) combined primary and secondary students were born outside of Canada, representing over 175 nations; and more than 27,000 (10 percent) have been in Canada for less than three years. Toronto’s historically rooted, Francophone and Catholic communities are also represented in the city’s other school boards.
The Conseil Scolaire de District du Centre-Sud-Ouest has setup 26 elementary schools and 9 secondary schools in the city’s boundaries to serve the minority Francophone community (See CSDCSO 2007), as well as, the Conseil Scolaire de District Catholique Centre-Sud with 6 elementary schools and 1 secondary school in Toronto, serving the Catholic Francophone community (See CSDCCS 2007).
The Catholic community is also represented in the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), formerly the Metropolitan Separate School Board, with over 87,000 students in 201 elementary and secondary schools (TCDSB 2006). In the last 60 years, TCDSB schools have been dominated by Italian and Portuguese student demographics, although this has slowly changed as a result of the later part of second-wave immigration, where Catholic-dominated, Latin American, Eastern European and Asian (especially Korean and Filipino) ethnicities are prevalent. Similar to Beijing’s minzu schools, Francophone and Catholic schools teach the provincial curriculum, supplemented by a bilingual education for the former and Catholic teachings and efforts to promote a Christian community in the latter.
The challenges of teaching such an ethnically diverse community of students in the city’s school boards are tremendous. It is still in recent memory, even up to the early 1990s, that schools in Toronto were treated as homogeneous by the provincial curriculum. Schools were intended to cultivate in students a “sense of citizenship, loyalty, respect for property, deference to authority” (James 2004: 43). The underlying thinking being schools would teach “Canadian values” which are deeply rooted in Catholic-based, Anglophone and Francophone traditions. The accompanying expectation was that all incoming migrants would assimilate “Canadian values” via the school system. However, with an increasingly visible multi-ethnic makeup of Toronto’s schools, many ethnic minority parents and community groups began to vocalize their concerns and demand action to change the curriculum content to be more inclusive and relevant to the students—coinciding with Professor D’s present aspirations in Beijing. Furthermore, they strongly suggested recruiting teachers who reflected the student population and are more sensitive to the needs of ethnic minorities. To this day, many parents are still concerned that their children may be alienated at their schools, due in part to an educator’s lack of awareness of, and insensitivity to their educational needs and interests. As one parent with her child in a York TDSB high school puts it.
The “Antiracism and Ethnocultural Equity in School Boards” (AEESB) guidelines established in 1993, and accompanies curriculum materials developed by the Ministry of Education in Ontario, sought to assist school boards to implement principles to promote ethno-cultural equity. As the then provincial government stated, “the intent of ethnocultural equity education is to ensure that all students achieve their potential . . . as well as confidence in their cultural and racial identities” (MOE 1993), and as James (2004: 44) comments, to equip all international students with the great knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to live and work effectively in an increasingly diverse world. In practice, the AEESB guidelines have ushered “ethnic celebrations” in schools by increasing awareness of ethnic foods, music, dance, costumes, rather than structural changes in the curriculum. For instance, in the schools observed in York, East York, and Toronto, Black History month has effectively become a period where teachers talk about various ethnic cultures, but at a superficial level nearing “cultural fluff.”
This is not surprising to Ratna and Tarrow (1993) who studied teaching methods in a multicultural environment. In general, they found subject content and technical aspects of classroom management were the focus for teachers, and ethnic differences among students were not considered as important. While examining Canadian schools, studies have observed that although teachers are generally aware of the ethnic diversity in their classrooms and aim to meet the individual needs of students, their attentiveness to the ethnic differences brought to the classroom by their students varies substantially, especially across subject areas (See Blades et al. 2000). For example, teachers in the social sciences and humanities suggested that their subject area allowed them to relate to issues of ethnicity using the curriculum.
Many of the topics (mostly abstract) in the curriculum related to cultures, such as immigration trends and globalization. This is in contrast to teachers in mathematics and sciences who, in general, falsely assume ethnic neutrality in their subjects; or the classics of literature are universal. While all teachers recognize ethnic differences only very few understand the implications of these differences for student learning and most teachers’ awareness of ethnic difference appears to be at a superficial level, with little consideration for the role of such differences in understanding and interpreting the curriculum. Although Toronto has been influenced by an influx of migrants and their ethnic contributions, the primary and secondary school curriculum continues to present a Catholic-based, Anglo- and Francocentric set of topics, which in spite of many parents’ and community groups’ protestation, do not overtly invite or include the perspectives of other ethnic group understandings. In response, the principal of an East York secondary school puts it succinctly this way:
In many respects, primary and secondary school educators in Toronto are focused on delivering the provincial curriculum, often without questioning the sources or consequences implicit in this type of delivery. Educators see their jobs as “defined by the transmission of prescribed knowledge to students” and their subsequent task is to evaluate the students’ abilities to reiterate information (McMahon 2003: 266). Knowledge is not, however, only an object to be transmitted from the teacher who has the knowledge to a student who does not. Teaching involves creating possibilities for the production of knowledge. Educators, as the interpreters of the curriculum, are crucial to the implementation of critical and multi-ethnic perspectives that move away from typical museum-like approaches, whereby multi-ethnic education is delivered in a superficial way. On this point, the Canadian Association of Teachers’ (CAT) has attempted to provide guidelines for teachers to foster a multi-ethnic classroom environment. They advocate a “total school approach,” whereby each teacher ought to
(1) assess the different views students hold about each other, beyond the rhetoric of “we are all the same”;
(2) establish the source of the views they hold;
(3) reassess their teaching in the process; and,
(4) examine the societal and communal sources of those views (See CAT 2006). The CAT suggests that one way of helping students from various minority cultures is to acknowledge that they are learning the subjects from a particular cultural viewpoint, with an implicit set of values and beliefs. Given the slow pace of curriculum changes, this is perhaps the best strategy to be employed in the short term. Although the education system struggles to keep pace with addressing the specific needs of ethnic minorities, there is something quite interesting and usual in primary and secondary schools observed. Instead of social groupings based on common ethnicity (especially among the visible ethnic minority population) which may be commonplace in large multi-ethnic communities in the United States, such as those found in New York (See Waters 1994), San Diego and Miami (See Portes and Zhou 1993), in Toronto most groupings among secondary students observed are based on aspects other than ethnicity. For instance, while observing schools in York, East York, and Toronto, irrespective of ethnicity, Goths group with other Goths; athletes with other athletes; etc.
This holds a promise that although formal education has not kept fully abreast with fostering greater intra-ethnic group accommodation, this is being met through a culturalization of shared interests beyond ethnic boundaries without formal policy interference. This is not to say that ethnic boundaries are not in the background as the conversation with two Afro-Caribbean final year high school students in York reveal:
Q: Has your ethnicity played a factor in the delivery of your education?
A (Student #1): This is definitely an ethnic school16, so the answer is yes. When you look at white schools they have better access to programs like advance placement, better access to computer networks and so on.
Q: What do you mean “white” schools?
A (Student #2): Basically go to the suburbs and you’ll see what I mean.
A (Student #1): Forget the suburbs, go to Forest Hill [a TDSB high school in a prominent European dominated, East York neighborhood]. Look at the programs they have there. Compare their extra-curricular activities to our school and you’ll see the difference right away. Their graduates think of going to [the University of] Toronto or Queen’s. Our graduates are just happy that they graduate.
A (Student #2): Ethnicity plays a role. It certainly does. My parents did not go to university. I am the first person in my entire family to finish high school.
A (Student #1): Well you’re not there yet (laughing).
A (Student #2): I think ethnicity plays a role in education. You see it everywhere. While statistics may reinforce the final comment made by student #2 to a certain extent, with the odds ratio of non-Europeans to Europeans ages 18 to 24 graduating high school at 0.59, the general narrative that emerges from observations in elementary and secondary schools, aside from curriculum problems, is a growing frustration by many members of visible ethnic groups with the process of education, primarily at the secondary school level.