September marks the beginning of the school year in Canada; a good time to note the successes of immigrant students and the opportunities for foreign-born students in Canadian educational institutions.
Many immigrant students are outperforming their Canadian-born peers, despite the additional challenges of starting a new life in Canada. During this past academic school year, the top high school students in Ontario’s Toronto Public School Board and Peel District School Board were foreign-born. “Because of Canada’s immigration policy, we are bringing in immigrants with higher education levels than the Canadian-born population. [The children of these immigrants] are highly motivated, very bright kids who come in and, especially in science and math, are often farther ahead than the school they are entering,” explains Jim Cummins of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.
As the school year got underway earlier this month, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), the Toronto District School Board, and several settlement agencies teamed up to help newly arrived immigrant youth get a head start as they prepared to enter high school. A pilot program this year, the Newcomer Orientation Week welcomed 250 students to eight schools in Toronto, Peel, and Hamilton. The one-week orientation gave newcomers the chance to learn about their new education system, find out about resources in their school and community, and meet new friends who are also newcomers to Canada.
University-level international students also received a piece of good news this month with the expansion of the Off-Campus Work Permit Program. Since its inception as a pilot project in 2003, the Off-Campus Work Permit Program has only been available to international students at public Canadian universities and colleges. The government of Canada has recently announced a pilot project to expand the program to international students at selected private institutions as well. The project is being implemented on a province-by-province basis, with Alberta and Manitoba as the first provinces to sign on.
Nationally launched in April 2006, the initiative has already benefited over 8,300 international students by giving them Canadian work experience and financial independence. With an Off-Campus Work Permit, international students can work up to 20 hours a week during the school term and full-time during school breaks. To qualify, students must have a valid study permit and have studied full-time for at least six of the previous 12 months in an eligible program of an authorized institution. The students must continue to fulfill the terms of their study permits and must be in satisfactory academic standing.