In order to mitigate declining fertility rates and an ongoing labour shortage, Canada has embraced a policy of immigration. But with the many benefits of this approach come a number of challenges.
One significant challenge is building accessible and inclusive education. On this issue, Werklund School of Education Associate Professor Shibao Guo has some concerns.
"Immigration has played an important role in transforming Canada into an ethno-culturally diverse and economically prosperous nation," says Guo, who will present his research on the subject in a talk entitled Immigration, Integration and the Politics of Educationon March 26.
"But differences have been viewed as deficit and deficiency, which negatively influences our thinking and daily practices in education."
Guo believes educators have an ethical and educational responsibility to embrace cultural difference and diversity in all aspects of education to build a system that is inclusive and socially just.
"Immigrants bring their language, culture, values, educational background, and work experience to the new society, adding to and enriching our educational environments. They also need educational programs to help them navigate the complex paths that citizenship entails and to upgrade their language, knowledge and skills to fully participate in the host society or community."
Failure to provide these programs further alienates immigrants and their children as full and deserving citizens he says. And this failure carries political implications.
"To me, education is not neutral and, indeed, it is a politically contested term. When we discuss the politics of education, we often think about who gets what, when, and how. Issues of immigration, race, and ethnicity are often ignored."
In his talk on March 26, Immigration, Integration, and the Politics of Education, Guo juxtaposed issues of education with the politics of difference, knowledge and recognition associated with immigration.
"It is important to examine how education operates to facilitate or hinder immigrants' transitions in Canada."
Guo's talk was the final event in the 2012-2013 Engaging New Ideas in Education lecture series.