This past week we invited immigrant families to join us for an evening of conversation and engagement. With the growing number of
students from around the world enrolling in our school, we’ve made the effort (four times in the past two years) to provide an opportunity for English as a Second Language parents to share their ideas, thoughts and concerns. This is our way of giving them a voice they may not feel they otherwise have because of both language and cultural barriers.
We are fortunate to have the local Immigrant Services authority partnering with us on these evenings by presenting about their services and providing interpreters in a variety of languages – including Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Tagalog, Muldovan, and Korean. Parents tell us that simply inviting them to an event such as this speaks volumes about who we are as a school community.
It’s easy for us to assume that all parents and guardians are on the same playing field when it comes to participating in their childs education. Too often we forget that economic and cultural barriers make it very challenging for some to fully engage. I’ve often wondered what percentage of our parent population wants to play a stronger role but simply can’t. So, on that evening I decided to give my short presentation on the Education Act.
My province has recently put into place a brand new Education Act which is the first in Canada “to formally recognize the role of parents as a child’s first and most important teacher.” The Act ouitlines the following rights and responsibilities of parents:
Parents are the primary guides and decision-makers with respect to their child’s education.
Parents must take an active role in their child’s education.
Parents have choice in education, including public schools, separate schools,Francophone schools, charter schools, private schools and home education programs.
Parents have the right to be kept informed about their child’s education by those with information to share: teachers, administrators, the school board and government.
After my presentation I was struck by the thoughts of one parent who recently arrived from El Salvador. There, he said, parents have very little say in the education of their child and are expected not to question the authority of the school, it’s administrators or it’s teachers. He went on to say how happy he was to be here and that he and his wife were looking forward to actively participating in their daughters education.
We all know that a children learn best when all those involved work closely as a team to support their individual needs. In our ever growing culturally diverse school communities, let us find ways to include everyone; especially those who are being left out. What are you doing to make this happen?