Federal advisory panel says international education ‘key driver of Canada’s future prosperity’
Clarkson Secondary School in Mississauga is home to the new Peel Academy for International Students, the result of a partnership between the Peel District School Board, the University of Toronto Mississauga and Sheridan College. The academy, which offers high school education to students from around the world, will celebrate its official opening on Nov. 8.
“International students have been choosing Ontario and our school system for their Canadian high school education for a number of years,” says Tony Pontes, director of education. “We saw an opportunity to improve the services we provide these students so we teamed up with the University of Toronto Mississauga and Sheridan College to identify the specific supports necessary to help motivated international students make a smooth transition into post-secondary education.”
Previously, international students studying in the Peel board were spread out throughout the system. The goal of the academy is to bring students together in one location to focus resources more effectively. Students who attend the academy participate in an intensive English Language Learner program designed to help them acquire the English skills necessary to support their chosen pathway. They also attend courses with other Clarkson students in order to obtain necessary credits and practice their English skills. The academy is fully integrated into Clarkson, meaning students have access to all of the same opportunities as other Clarkson students, including athletics and clubs. International students participate in an orientation program and are connected with a Canadian mentor to help with the transition.
“We know learning the language and successful integration extends well beyond the classroom,” says Cathy Patterson, principal at Clarkson. “We want our students to participate in school life, to develop conversational English skills, make friends and build their understanding of our culture. Just like all students at Clarkson, we are committed to our international students’ physical and emotional well-being, as well as their academic achievement.”
The benefits of the academy extend beyond international students themselves. A report released by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada in August 2012 identified international education as a key driver of Canada’s future prosperity. Though the report largely focuses on post-secondary education, its authors recognize the potential role of high schools to make “a significant contribution, as the students who attend these schools can decide to pursue post-secondary education in Canada.”
The Advisory Panel on Canada’s International Education Strategy also stated in their report that, “The more Canadian students are exposed to an internationalized curriculum and intercultural experiences at an early age, the greater the impact on their development.”
Notes Pontes, “The diversity of our classrooms is an advantage you’ll find at all Peel board schools, both elementary and secondary. Our students come from all over the world and are part of various cultures and religions. This diversity helps our students acquire an authentic global perspective—one that is necessary in our increasingly integrated world.”
The Peel board began discussions with the U of T Mississauga and Sheridan College in fall 2010. The Peel Academy for International Students opened in September 2012. “It’s important to understand that attending the academy does not guarantee students admission at our partner institutions, though many will likely choose to apply,” explains Pontes. “What it does guarantee is motivated students will benefit from a program designed with advice from the U of T Mississauga and Sheridan College. Both schools have extensive experience with international students and we’re very thankful for their willingness to share expertise.”
In addition to working in an advisory capacity during the development of the academy, U of T Mississauga and Sheridan College will play an ongoing role in helping students identify pathways to post-secondary education, even before they reach grade 12. This role will include providing campus tours, meeting individually with students to discuss their goals, the provision of academic counselling and the orientation support needed to transition from high school.
Many international students studying in the Peel board live with extended family members in the area. Students also have access to a homestay program coordinated through Canada Homestay International. To learn more about homestay, including how to become a host family, visit www.canadahomestayinternational.com.
“The academy is a great addition to our community,” says Brad McDonald, trustee for wards 2 and 8 in Mississauga. “I’m hopeful local residents will see the benefit to opening their home to an international student. There is so much we can learn from each other, and cross-cultural experiences are incredibly enriching.”
Officials from the U of T Mississauga and Sheridan College will participate in the official opening of the academy on Nov. 8, along with officials from the Peel board, school staff, and international and Canadian students. The event starts at 12:30 p.m. with a meet and greet. The signing of the collaboration agreement will take place at 1 p.m. and the formal program will begin at 1:15 p.m.
Clarkson is located at 2524 Bromsgrove Rd. in Mississauga. For more information about the academy, visit www.studyincanada-peel.ca
Tony Pontes, Director of Education, 905-890-1010 ext. 2006
Alison Farbar, Communications Officer (acting), 905-890-1010 ext. 2626, [email protected]
Note to media:
International students are available for interviews in English, Igbo, Korean, Mandarin, Norwegian, Punjabi and Vietnamese. The Advisory Panel on Canada’s International Education Strategy Final Report is available here: http://www.international.gc.ca/education/report-rapport/strategy-strategie/toc-tdm.aspx?view=d