Program aids international teachers

May 15, 2003, vol. 27, no. 2
By Julie Ovenell-Carter

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The benefits of SFU's new professional qualification program (PQP) for internationally trained teachers are “too many to count,” according to Vijay Dhanoa (left), one of 19 students from seven countries currently enrolled in the program.

Born in Africa and educated in India, Dhanoa trained to be a teacher after earning degrees in English and biology from Guru Nanak Dev University in Punjab.

In 2001, she came to Vancouver with her husband and infant daughter, “looking for more opportunities both personally and professionally.” After reviewing her credentials, the B.C. college of teachers recommended she enroll at SFU in a unique certification program tailor-made for immigrant teachers.

PQP launched in January, 2001, after education faculty members noticed a disturbing trend among teachers from other countries who were
attempting to certify through SFU's acclaimed professional development program. “Many of them would crash and burn once they hit the practicum,” observes PQP program coordinator Anne Scholefield.

“These were highly knowledgeable teachers with a great deal to offer the education system who ran into trouble because they simply weren't acculturated to British Columbia classrooms. Some were so badly humiliated by the experience, their teaching careers here ended before they began.”

The 10-month 24-credit PQP aims to help immigrant teachers understand the philosophies and practices of the Canadian education system, and to orient them to the historical, cultural, social and political context of B.C schools.

Bashir Jamalzadah, a former teacher-educator in Afghanistan, was one of the first students to enrol in the PQP.

At the age of 51, after a decade in Canada, Jamalzadah was nudged back to teaching by his family who thought he was “well suited” to the profession.

Now a teacher at a private international college in Richmond, B.C., Jamalzadah says the PQP “changed what was awkward about my teaching, and even changed the way I taught. In Afghanistan, teaching and learning is based on rote memorization. The teacher bombards the student with information and the student is not actively involved. In Canada, it's the complete opposite. Teachers play the role of facilitator, and the students are full participants in the learning process. I am more of a teacher now, and less a preacher.”

“The PQP has brought me into step with Canadian culture,” says Dhanoa, who is prepared to relocate “wherever a teacher is needed” when she completes her practicum this fall.

“You cannot expect to come from a different country and teach without being aware of social norms and educational attitudes. You would be a disaster in the classroom. The PQP empowers you and gives you the confidence to be successful in a new environment.”

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