CERIC publishes new guide to help Canadian educators meet the needs of refugee students

Canadian schools now have a new resource to enable them to deliver more culturally responsive career guidance and better integrate the growing number of newcomer and refugee students who have lived through the trauma of war, family separation and loss. The CERIC-published guide was released at the Cannexus National Career Development Conference in Ottawa where more than 1,000 career educators and counsellors gathered.

Bridging Two Worlds: Supporting Newcomer and Refugee Youth is authored by Dr Jan Stewart, Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Winnipeg and Dr Lorna Martin, President Emerita of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA). The book provides teachers, school administrators and counsellors with practical resources to help students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 navigate school and connect it to careers and their future.

According to the 2016 Census, almost 2.2 million children under the age of 15 were foreign-born (first generation) or had at least one foreign-born parent. In 2018, the Government of Canada plans to admit a further 310,000 immigrants, of which 46,500 will be refugees. This follows Canada’s record resettlement of Syrian refugees over the past two years, with just under half aged 17 and younger. Statistics Canada predicts that children with an immigrant background could represent between 39 per cent and 49 per cent of the total population of children by 2036.

The book received extensive advance praise, including from the Hon Lloyd Axworthy, Chair, World Council on Refugees and former Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Bridging Two Worlds brings to bear the power of original research and the insight of its experienced authors on the crucial issue of educating newcomers. With the world witnessing an ever-growing number of refugees – many coming to our shores with expectations of a better life – education is the key. Equally, the new arrivals must learn about their new land and how they can make Canada a better place. Fortunately, this guide creates understanding and provides the tools that will enable the building of bridges to take place.”

The book grew out of a three-year research program funded by CERIC, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and Mitacs. Led by Dr Stewart, researchers investigated schools, settlement agencies and communities in Calgary, Winnipeg and St. John’s to build a database of best practices that could be shared with educators, as well as policymakers. The research found that refugee and newcomer youth need more assistance with career choices and understanding the impact of course selections on their future career trajectories. With complications arising because of psychosocial issues (e.g., trauma from war, loss of parents, forced migration), interrupted learning or language barriers, students faced additional obstacles. Teachers and counsellors also reported they did not feel fully equipped to deal with these diverse needs.

Bridging Two Worlds is built around nine key themes related to effective pedagogy and mental health supports:

  1. Conflict Awareness
  2. Social Determinants of Health
  3. Peace and Sustainability
  4. Refugee Characteristics
  5. Building Personal and Community Connections
  6. Cultural Competency/Culturally Safe and Responsive Teaching
  7. Trauma-Sensitivity, Mental Health Awareness and Crisis Response
  8. Career Planning and Career Development
  9. Teacher Self-Care

Offering data-informed curriculum development and instructional ideas, the first section of the book considers issues that relate to school-based learning and teaching. While not all newcomers to Canada face the cumulative effects of trauma, interrupted learning and new-language acquisition, all educators should be aware of how these affect human development and learning. The second section focuses on educator competency – preparing and training teachers and counsellors to work with newcomer and refugee children and youth. It includes relevant core competencies from the Career Development Guidelines and Standards of Practice and 30 sample lessons for educators. The book concludes with a section devoted to student learning outcomes for life/work development. Learning outcomes from the Blueprint for Life/Work Designs are provided with 90 accompanying lessons to use across all elementary and secondary grade levels.

The guide is available for sale ($28.99) at Amazon.ca or Chapter.Indigo.ca or can be downloaded for free at www.ceric.ca/twoworlds.