Photo: Toronto Skyline
According to a recent study, the high school drop out rate for Latinos in Toronto is now 40 percent, and despite attempts to change this, the school district has, so far, been unable to find a solution.
The study, by University of Toronto states that the drop out rate is almost double that of the overall population. So what is it? Why are Latino students there not finishing high school?
Well to answer that, the researchers spoke to some of the Latino students themselves. A number of current students said they we’ve been labeled slow learners because they don’t speak English, while others stated they are made outcasts, made fun of and mocked for not speaking English. Also, Rubén A. Gaztambide-Fernández who headed up the study, said researchers were told that few resources are available for the Spanish speakers and economic stress played a large role dropping out.
In recent years, the number of Latin Americans in Canada has increased greatly due, in large part, to the immigration debate going on here in the U.S., and Gaztambide-Fernández said the school district was just not ready.
It is estimated that around 350,000 Latin Americans currently live in Canada, which has a total population of about 32 million. Around a third of the Latin American population in Toronto. Of that, 5,200 are attending schools in the Toronto school district.
Adding to the students’ issues is the fact that both peers and teachers are forming their opinions of them off of stereotypes, mostly those that come from Hollywood movies.
“In the U.S., depending on where you live, all the stereotypes about Latinos tend to be bad, but at least there are a lot of stereotypes,” said Gaztambide-Fernández. “What we found in Canada was that everyone assumes that because you are Latin American, you are Mexican. And because you are Mexican, you are poor, lazy and you belong to a gang. That was it.”
For the study, 60 students were interviewed and asked to fill out surveys. During one of the interviews, 12th grader Mercedes said staying in school isn’t just about the school.
“It is like a little burlap sack, you throw in discrimination, you throw in work, you throw in that you have no money, you throw in that, well, you don’t like school, you throw in this and you throw in that, and the burlap sack gets heavy,” she said. “It is not just one factor that leads you leave school.”
Having failed at decreasing the Latino drop outs, the Toronto school board is now asking the community, universities, and even New York school officials for recommendations.
Part of the district’s efforts will include a pilot program to begin in February, that includes cultural sensitivity classes to be offered to teachers so they may better understand the Latin American culture, and Latin American history courses will be added to the curriculum. Support programs for the students will be added, and low-income students will be offered part-time jobs at the school.
If the pilot program proves successful, it will be integrated into all of the schools.