Educational goals higher for visible minority youth

Visible minority youth are aiming higher when it comes to education largely due to educational values promoted from within their own families, says new University of Alberta research.

Sociologist Dr. Harvey Krahn and Dr. Alison Taylor from the Department of Educational Policy Studies used Statistics Canada data from the Youth in Transition Survey to examine differences in the goals for postsecondary education among 15-year-old students. The research is published in the Journal of International Migration and Integration.

Previous studies have shown that immigrant youth try hard to be successful in the education system, and that their parents are aware of the need for their children to do well in school. But other research has also shown that language and cultural barriers can stand in the way of immigrant youth. "It is possible that such barriers might dampen educational aspirations," said Krahn. "So we were surprised by just how resilient these young visible minority immigrant youth really were, despite such barriers, and by how much higher their aspirations were compared to those of Canadian-born non-visible minority youth."

Krahn and Taylor found that 79 per cent of visible-minority immigrant youth hoped to earn at least one university degree in their future, compared with 57 per cent of Canadian-born non-visible minority students. The study also found that the parents of visible-minority immigrant students generally have higher levels of education than their Canadian-born counterparts, and also express more positive hopes for the educational attainment of their children.

About 88% of visible-minority immigrant parents stated that they hoped their children would acquire a university education while 59% of Canadian-born non-visible minority parents expressed the same goal for their children. Visible-minority immigrant students also tend to report higher grades and have higher levels of school engagement than Canadian-born students.

Krahn and Taylor found differences based on gender, region, community size and socio-economic status, however, language first spoken and family structure were not found to be related to differences in the students' educational aspirations.

The researchers are now interested in learning if visible minority immigrant youth encounter barriers in the secondary and post-secondary systems that dampen these high educational goals or whether they continue to persevere, said Krahn.

"Educators working with immigrant youth--a growing proportion of the school-age population--may, at first glance, see young people who may have language difficulties and are trying to find a way to fit into a new culture," he said. "While it is important to recognize these barriers they are facing, we need to also recognize their unusually high aspirations and to make sure that they have every opportunity to reach them."

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The analysis for this study was conducted at the University of Alberta Research Data Centre, located at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. The Research Data Centre program is part of an initiative by Statistics Canada, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and university consortia to strengthen Canada's social research capacity. There are 16 centres currently operating at various universities.


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