Opportunity for All

Private school gives equal time to all faiths and ethnic backgrounds

Getting into university is tough, but perhaps in no province is it tougher than Ontario due to the competition. While newcomers often face the additional challenges of learning a new language and culture, at least one Ontario-based private college prep school called Beaconhouse is helping students of all races, religions, and backgrounds – immigrant or not – to enter university.

Over 90% of Beaconhouse graduates get an offer from the university or college of their choice. The school’s diversity, small class size, student focus, and flexibility make it a popular choice among Ontario high school students seeking entrance to the area’s competitive universities.

Having to learn a new language and culture can make the challenge of university even tougher for newcomers, of which Ontario has many. According to 2006 Canada Census Highlight Factsheets, 52.3% of the 1.1 million newcomers in Canada during 2001-2006 settled in Ontario. Among municipalities with high numbers of newcomers were Mississauga and Brampton, where Beaconhouse offers two of its three locations. The school’s third location in Oakville serves mostly second and third generation Canadians.

Beaconhouse’s Mississauga and Brampton locations serve students from India, China, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka, as well as those born in Canada. The school’s teaching staff reflect this diversity. Unlike some private schools which focus almost exclusively on a single religious faith, language, or culture, at Beaconhouse the door is open to all students regardless of origin, religion, language, culture, gender, or age. The school not only celebrates Christmas and Easter as school holidays, but also Eid ul-Fitr (a Muslim holiday) Vaisakhi (a Sikh holiday), and Diwali (a Hindu holiday).

“We’re all about inclusion, about giving opportunity for all, and our fully qualified staff from all backgrounds understands this,” says Bilal Rashid, Principal of Beaconhouse. “It doesn’t matter if you stepped off the plane yesterday or your family has lived in Canada for generations. We want you to succeed.”

Rashid knows firsthand the challenges of learning a new language and culture, which is why the school offers a full range of English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. He also understands that even students with families living in Canada for generations can sometimes feel lost in typically large, crowded public classrooms, so Beaconhouse offers small class size and individual attention to both full-time and part-time students.

“Students feel more comfortable in a small group setting where everybody knows them, where they don’t have to wait a week to see a guidance counselor,” says Rashid. “Because of the small class size, teachers know each student by name and can be more focused on them. Any time students have a question about reaching their goals and entering the university of their choice, they can see a guidance counselor in about five minutes.”

For part-time students, a full schedule of classes is typically offered from 3:30 PM daily, plus Saturdays. With class hours designed to coordinate with schedules at other schools, a growing number of students are getting the help they need when they need it. The cost is $810 per credit. A credit is essentially equal to a course, and a course is 110 hours of classroom time. There is also a $100 book deposit, which is refunded to students at year end when they return their books.

To help Ontario high school students fully prepare for university, Beaconhouse is now licensed as an Advanced Placement (AP) examination center, and plans to offer AP courses in Calculus AB, Physics B, Chemistry, Biology and English starting in the Fall of 2012. AP courses are the equivalent of first-year university courses, taken in high school. Some universities offer students class credit for scoring well on an AP exam. While challenging, passing AP exams can save some of the time and cost of a university education.

“Studying at a high school that’s committed to student diversity, small class size, student focus, and flexibility can be an important step to preparing for and getting into the university of your choice in Ontario or beyond,” says Rashid.

For more info, visit the Beaconhouse website (www.beaconhouse.ca).

Canadian Newcomer Issue 44