New Canadians and International Students

General Information

With more and more international and newcomer students participating in our school systems, it is increasingly important to address the needs of newcomer families with support and guidance. Many of our local communities are developing international recruitment plans to help contribute to the growth and prosperity of the local economy. The newcomers we welcome into our communities are a vital component of our future economic development—they bring diversity, skills, and investment. It is important to understand that there is no typical newcomer family. Each family member will experience the change in culture, country, and surroundings in a different way. In order to fully support the child(ren), it is vital to address the needs of the parents to reduce stress in the home overall. If you support the family, you support the child.

General Characteristics To Look For

Here are some examples of signs that a newcomer student is having difficulty adjusting:

  • academic performance dropping from the level previously achieved in the country of origin
  • difficulty developing language skills in English
  • discrepancy between reading in the home language and in the language of instruction

  • changes in personality in different environments
  • discrepancies between verbal responses and the actions taken to carry them out
  • social isolation and low interaction with peers
  • fatigue and lack of focus

Note: Understand that low levels of ability in English do not necessarily reflect the individual’s academic skill overall.

Impact On Student Success

  • Academic challenges due to missing class time for ESL (English as a Second Language).
  • Students might feel pressured by the need to always be catching up.
  • Students might have difficulty understanding Canadian expectations in school because their culture of origin might have different beliefs or behaviours.
  • Respect can be shown differently from culture to culture. For example, students or parents might think it is disrespectful to ask the teacher questions or to make direct eye contact.
  • Students might have difficulty feeling that they belong to the school community, and this might result in a lack of interest or participation.
  • “Students who have immigrated from countries of instability may need additional supports to address issues related to trauma and stress” (English Language Learners/ESL and ESD Programs and Services, Ontario Ministry of Education, 2007).
  • Gender roles vary from culture to culture.
  • Immigrants may be at risk of discrimination.
  • Raise the awareness of newcomer needs and challenges.
  • Engage in cross-cultural communication training. Broaden personal multicultural awareness.
  • Stress the importance of engaging with all cultural groups.
  • Understand that low levels of ability in English do not necessarily reflect the individual’s academic skill overall.
  • Be a champion for diversity in all aspects of your life to reflect a true welcoming nature.
  • Ensure that new Canadians receive culturally appropriate reception and orientation services.
  • Understand the student’s strengths and needs. Differentiate instruction and assessment practices.
  • Include visuals and concrete examples in the environment and in instruction.
  • Outline to the student and their family the specific expectations for the classroom.
  • Be alert to changes in student behaviour and interaction with peers.
  • Consult directly with the student to identify successes and where support is needed.
  • Build a strong and simple communication plan between the school and the home.
  • Encourage all students to work outside their usual cultural group.
  • Welcome and celebrate diversity in the classroom.
  • Provide orientation materials or develop a mentoring program to connect newcomer students with peers.
  • Provide information to teachers regarding issues facing ESL students (e.g., Supporting English Language Learners: A practical guide for Ontario educators, Grades 1 to 8, Ontario Ministry of Education, 2008).
  • Provide up-to-date information on the services and support mechanisms available locally for newcomers.
  • Maintain clear communication with the school in order to support your child.
  • Be aware of the services geared towards supporting newcomers.
  • Understand the expectations for the student in the classroom.
  • Practice English at home whenever possible to encourage the family’s language skills development.
  • Share with the school your child’s past academic achievement and general school-related behaviours.
  • Encourage your child to read in their home language as well as in the language of instruction.
  • Educate the school about the services for newcomers that are available locally.
  • Host events to help get newcomers involved with the community and each other.
  • Bring together resources and tools for successful settlement.
  • Engage in and promote cultural training opportunities.
  • Provide advocates for the children and/or family as required.