The recent economic boom in Saskatchewan and the resulting influx of newcomers into the province in the past few years has meant new challenges being faced by local school systems.
Between 2005 and 2010, approximately 9,000 immigrant children have entered the province’s elementary and secondary schools. Though officials are happy to welcome them, they have had to face many challenges in integrating the group – many of whom do not speak English as a first language.
“The growth is good news for the province,” says provincial assistant minister of education Greg Miller, “but we have to recognize the growth also presents some challenges.”
Officials say that resource allocation is not reflecting the changing demographics, and that budget will need to increase if the school systems hope to be able to hire the staff needed to keep pace with the growth.
Another problem facing the school boards is the lack of information available to schools on who they should expect to enrol each year, which ties back to the concerns on allocating staff. Workers with the English as an Additional Language program (EAL) are coordinating efforts with the government, as well as local universities to try to find the teachers needed to assist the new arrivals. The province is also involved with creating and maintaining an online resource centre for EAL teachers.
Furthermore, the newcomer student centre began operating last August, and is located on-site of the public school board building. The centre provides transition services including school tours for prospective students and their families, as well as registration and assessment services.
“We certainly believe that there is strength in our diversity,” says Saskatoon Catholic school board superintendent Greg Chatlin. “We’re very open and supportive of the students and their family if they chose to settle here and join us.”
Source: Saskatoon Star-Phoenix