Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

Posts Tagged ‘immigration’

Immigration and Education based on TDSB stats

Posted by chinesecanuck on February 28, 2009

The Toronto District School Board just released stats on elementary (kindergarten to Grade 6) students based on their background (ethnic and socio-economic) in hopes that kids who’re most in need.  Questions asked included the family’s ethnicity (both the child’s and his/her parents), family education level, expectations of the child, income, etc…and results of each question was shown on a chart.  While some of the questions were typical, there was one that bothered me, one which asked whether the parent(s) were born in Canada or not.  What bothered me wasn’t the question itself, but it didn’t seem to ask WHEN the parent came.  It makes a BIG difference.  I know several people who were born abroad, but came to Canada as elementary school aged kids.  Since they were so young, they learned English relatively quickly and sound no different than anyone born and raised here.  Unlike 2009, young immigrants (as in elementary school aged)  and non-English speaking Canadian born children were able to learn English at a much quicker pace in the 70s and 80s than today, since they were less likely to live in areas with larger populations of people who speak other languages.   But anyway…

The results weren’t surprising.  Children from lower income families and/or from families of certain ethnicities did poorer in school than others.    While parents  all had high expectations of their children, many more children did not meet the provincial standard in tests.  Other interesting points:  White families seemed to value sports more than non-white parents.  73% of kids with white parents participated in sports outside of school, while East Asians parents were more likely to send their children to arts-related activities (48%) than other groups.   South Asians and blacks were more likely to participate in religiously related activities at 45% and 44% respectively.  And while Asian students tend to do well, their parents are much less likely to participate in parent-teacher interviews.  Perhaps it culturally related – in many cultures, parents only see teachers if their child is in trouble.  I realize the results sound somewhat stereotypical, but that’s what was sent in.  What do you think?


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Non-English Speaking Households and Education

Posted by chinesecanuck on February 10, 2009

Something I discovered which I find interesting:

Toronto high schools known primarily as academic institutions have more students which speak non-English languages at home than more “general” schools or schools with technical programs.  For example, 39% of students at North Toronto Collegiate Institute speak a language other than English at home.  However, at nearby Northern Secondary, a school which has a tehcnical program, only 24% speak another language.  Both schools serve relatively the same area.  Further into the city, we have Jarvis Collegiate and Central Tech.  At Jarvis, 74% speak another language at home, while only 56% of students at Central Tech do. 

According to profs I had in graduate school, the opposite would have been the case just a few decades ago.  Academic-based, public preparatory schools like Jarvis and North Toronto would have seen multi-generational middle to upper middle class, Anglo students, while the technical programs would have been in more blue collar, immigrant neighbourhoods (though Northern might be an exception – it’s also more “academic” than other technical schools, which is probably why it’s Northern SECONDARY rather than Northern TECH)

Readers, do you think this has to do with immigrants to Toronto and how they view education?  What’s it like in other cities?  Does it have to do with which countries immigrants come from?

Posted in education | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Greyhound Slaying, Immigration, Mental Health and Culture

Posted by chinesecanuck on August 5, 2008

I’m sure most of you have already heard about the Greyhound beheading in Canada a few days ago. The accused is an immigrant from China who apparently has no real history of mental health issues. However, many of his close friends have said that he did seem distant and refused help, according to an Edmonton Journal report. I’m wondering if his refusal for help is cultural-related. The social stigma of mental illness is much greater there than it is here, and therapy is relatively new. I have relatives who find therapy weird, especially if it’s for “normal” people (i.e. those who are depressed. They believe that depression is an invention of the modern middle class). But no one has said that the murderer is depressed. It could be a whole host of issues. But I’m not sure if things will change all that quickly. The culture is very old, and talking to people who aren’t related to you is seen as odd, even for younger people.

When people immigrate to Canada, they are required to have a medical examination. This includes physical and mental health. However, to my understanding, the mental health exam is not too detailed. Should it be more detailed? Perhaps people like this guy would not have been allowed in. If this isn’t a case of depression, it’s likely that this guy has had issues LONG BEFORE HE CAME TO CANADA.

Posted in China, culture, immigration | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Integration is really a class/education thing?

Posted by chinesecanuck on July 14, 2008

Over the weekend, I had a lengthy discussion on immigration and integration with a friend. Friend believes that immigrants who are more likely to retain old country values (ranging from total arranged marriages (i.e. not “this is A, this is B. You guys go out on supervised ‘dates’ and then decide whether you like each other or not” type arrangements) to marrying young to not moving out until marriage, etc) are those who are not as educated. Educated people, my friend believes, are more open to their children adopting mainstream, Anglo-Saxon (or Francophone if you’re in Quebec) values because they’re more exposed. In fact, they probably have picked up some of the values themselves (even if it’s more old fashioned – my mother, for example, gave me an etiquette book when I was 12. This etiquette book is likely a traditional gift to a 10-12 year old who attends junior cotillions and will be a debutante in her late teens. I was not a debutante. They aren’t all that common in Toronto, unless you’re Filipina). Friend cited the European immigrants who came in the 1900s or even after WWII. Many of these immigrants only had two or three years of formal education compared to Anglo Canadians had at the time (probably Grade 8-ish). They worked unskilled jobs and their social lives revolved around their place of worship which spoke the language from the motherland and observed traditions of the country.

I think my friend is only partially right in this case. There are plenty of immigrants who are really well-educated, yet their credentials from abroad do not make them qualified for the jobs they did in the old country. Immigrants who are the most integrated, those who have picked up Anglo-Saxon values are those who were educated here. Why? Because they came young. When you’re 18 years old and away from home, the first thing you want to do is something that is considered taboo to your parents. This isn’t only something that foreign students do, but basically anyone who is going to school out of town! 🙂 For some people, the new values stick, especially if you intend to stay in the new country. There aren’t parents to tell you that what you’re doing is not proper.  In addition, parents who are willing to send their kids abroad, especially girls, are probably already open-minded anyway.  It’s also the exposure that they may have career-wise.  I have noticed that many immigrants who are in, say, finance or law (especially of their senior management), are more culturally Anglo than even equally educated (or perhaps more so) and equally financially well-off doctors whose patients are primarily from the immigrant communities.  The doctor, in turn, is probably “more exposed”/culturally Anglo than someone who owns a small business.

Readers, do you think this is true? Is education the key to being more open-minded and perhaps even integrating? Or is it a combination of being educated in the new country and education itself?  Is it a class thing?

Posted in assimilation, culture, education, ethnicity, minorities, social class | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

New York Times article: Korean Kids Going to School Abroad with Mom, but not Dad

Posted by chinesecanuck on June 9, 2008

In the Education section of the New York Times today.

This isn’t anything new, IMHO.  Tons of Hong Kongers did this some fifteen to twenty years ago.  And the moms and kids who did this were not necessarily very, very wealthy families who sent their kids to private school.  Many were public school students.  There’s a Cantonese term for these people:  tai-hong yan (“astronauts”).  I don’t recall exactly WHY the term was coined or the meaning behind it, but perhaps it’s because the family’s separated and that Canada/or other English speaking country is “outer space” for them?  Perhaps because they’re so far away?  Like this case, it’s generally the mothers (especially stay-at-home moms) who come with the kids, rather than the fathers.  However, I didn’t see anything about passports/immigration in the South Korean story, which may very well be the ONLY DIFFERENCE.

Posted in Asian, culture, education, ethnicity, social class | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Rent a guest, get a passport

Posted by chinesecanuck on May 23, 2008

This article was in the Toronto Star today. Passport marriages, also known as “marriages of convenience” have been going on for decades, but people generally didn’t do much about it. It wasn’t until officials at a New Delhi began to see the same guests show up over and over in different wedding images that they began to investigate. It can’t be a mere coincidence that these guests knew all these people, right? Turns out that the officials may be correct. Until now, the most officials could do was reject a sponsorship. However, with these tips, investigation is now under way in several countries, including China, India and Vietnam.

(Apparently a girl who lived in my residence in university knew someone who was in this situation. This friend married shortly after high school, but was divorced within a few years. The husband was from abroad. This is why I often question arranged marriages made with people back in the “old country.” Why the old country, when there are plenty of people in Canada who are from your culture? I’m not questioning the practice of arranged marriages, just how it’s done.)

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1980s Heritage Language Programs Sucked

Posted by chinesecanuck on May 16, 2008

Like many CBC kids, I was forced to go to Chinese school on Saturdays when I was in elementary school.  The classes I went to were held at local elementary schools (offered by the school boards…it is celebrating its 30 anniversary in Toronto in a few weeks).  The teachers were often board-employed teachers as well, but they didn’t know how to teach us.  Perhaps they just didn’t care.  We weren’t, after all, their “real” day kids!  From what I recalled, they taught us as if we were Hong Kong kids, not Canadian children.  The teacher wrote words on the board, we copied them down.  We didn’t always get a definition.  We didn’t usually get definitions during dictations either.  I recall most of us were kind of WTF about it, since our “regular” teachers would always define words for spelling tests.

Chinese school was NOT FUN.  At recess, we were often yelled at by other faculty for speaking English, the default language for most of us.  I’ve never done French Immersion, but teachers at immersion schools generally aren’t strict, are they?  I mean, they aren’t going to yell at you if you don’t parle français (maybe someone who has gone through immersion can tell me) outside of class.  The supplementary texts they used were often straight out of Hong Kong, and therefore we couldn’t relate well to them.  Most of us didn’t live in small apartments.  We lived in suburban homes with a big back yard.  We didn’t wear school uniforms.  Oh, and we didn’t stand up when faculty entered the classroom. Most of us weren’t really able to retain much, either.  After all, class was only once a week for about three and a half hours.  I dropped out (or rather, my parents pulled me out) after Grade 2 or 3.  For those who actually stayed until the end of the program (I think it was Grade 8), many still can’t read well.  Not at a Grade 4 or 5 level…good enough to read a Chinese version of the Toronto Sun, anyway.  Most forget.

I guess what I’m saying is that these programs are (or at least were in the 80s) a waste of money.  No one really learned anything, and it made many kids hate their heritage even more.  But maybe it was just the Cantonese programs.  Honestly, it would have been more interesting if the teachers played games, told stories and used better text books.  Perhaps it would have been better if the teachers treated us like they treat their day/regular students.

Posted in Asian, Cantonese, Chinese Canadian, culture, education, ethnicity, language, teaching | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Learned Another Language as a Tot, English at School – ESL or Not?

Posted by chinesecanuck on May 15, 2008

I didn’t speak English until I started school.  English is technically not my first language.  Cantonese is.  According to the Statistics Canada definition, Cantonese is my mother tongue, as it is defined as “the first language learned at home in childhood and still understood by the individual at the time of the census.”  I certainly still understand Cantonese.  My parents and grandparents speak Canto to me every day.  I usually reply in English to my parents, but in Cantonese to my grandparents. Gung Gung and Poh Poh do not speak much English.  Neither does my paternal grandmother.  English is my most comfortable language.  It’s the language I use before anything else.  I think in English.  However, Statscan does not have a category for people like me.  And there are plenty of people like me.  Many second generation Canadians, regardless of culture are like me.  We may not have said anything yet, but I’m pretty sure we don’t want to be grouped in the same  category as people who learned English much later in life.  We don’t sound like English is our second (or third, fourth, etc) language.  Our accents are indistinguishable from people whose families have been in English Canada for generations.  And at the same time, we’d be lying if we said that English was our first language.  It’s tough when we have to check off a box!

I think it’s time that they actually have a box for people in this situation.  I think it’s a great way to find out how many Canadians UNDERSTAND their ancestral language, but do not speak it or default to it.

Posted in Chinese Canadian, culture, default language, English, ethnicity, language, minorities, Mother Tongue | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

No babysitters, please, we’re not from here!

Posted by chinesecanuck on May 14, 2008

An acquaintance of mine once said that he and his wife do not use sitters because where they’re from, it’s always family members who take care of the children if the parents have to be away. They said that no one in the old country used sitters. I wanted to disagree with him, but didn’t want to come out sounding politically incorrect. Sure, it may be true for general, every day people, but I really doubt wealthy people from the old country would agree. I can’t think of any country where the wealthy have historically lived just like the “masses.” Wealthy people always had servants of some sort, and this includes nannies/nurses. It’s just that now, “regular people” also use outside help. His little speech made it sound like people who had the money to afford servants weren’t really “part” of the country culture. HUH? I’m pretty sure historically speaking, these were the people who shaped it. They’re the ones whose names are in the records and history books. Unless, of course, he’s only talking about “regular” people.

What gets really odd is that this guy isn’t FROM the old country.  In fact, he was born in the UK and raised in Canada.  He’s probably been to the “old country” less than ten times in his life, yet it seems that he feels connected to the “old country” much more than any other 1.5 or second generation Canadian I know.   Even his wife is from the “old country,” an arranged marriage.  I know other people who have had arranged marriages, but they all married people who were either born or raised here. Did his parents brainwash him?  If so, it’s seriously a WHAT NOT TO DO situation.  It’s parents like his that slow down the acceptance process.

*NOTE: I was mostly raised by my grandmother, but my family still hired a “sitter” to stay with me between 4 and 5:30 while my grandmother cooked dinner.*

Posted in assimilation, class, culture, ethnicity, minorities, tradition | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Asian Heritage Month

Posted by chinesecanuck on May 13, 2008

May is Asian Heritage Month.  Unlike Black History Month, most media outlets don’t make such a big deal out of it.  Instead, it seems that the media prefer to cover ethnic holidays such as the Lunar New Year, the Dragon Boat Festival (which is usually during or right after Asian Heritage Month), Dwali and so forth.  So why bother having Asian Heritage Month?  To cover cultures that aren’t big enough?  Just “because” of our so-called Multicultural policy? I don’t even know if the typical Asian Canadian, especially from the immigrant generation (which still make up the majority) would even know or care. You see posters around places like Pacific Mall, but it’s certainly less prominent than the decorations shoppers see around the Lunar New Year, the Dragon Boat Festival (which my family doesn’t even truly celebrate!) or the Mid-Autumn Festival (aka the Moon Festival).   If you ask the typical Asian Canadian, he or she will identify with the family heritage(s) before the more general Asian identity.

So should there really be an Asian Heritage Month?  Especially when other holidays/festivals are covered through out the year?

Posted in Asian, culture, ethnicity | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »