2008 Carl Bertelsmann Prize: ''Integration through education -- Fairness for all''
About this year's winner
Global Research Results
The Bertelsmann Stiftung identified exemplary programs that foster “integration through education” in ten selected countries for the Carl Bertelsmann Prize 2008. The Stiftung’s Jury chose the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) as this year’s prize winner from a pool of four finalists.
Winner of the 2008 Carl Bertelsmann Prize
Toronto District School Board
The TDSB is the largest school authority in Canada. It is responsible for more than 550 schools and 270,000 students. Fewer than 50 percent of these students speak English as their mother tongue, about 30 percent were born outside Canada and 10 percent have been living in Canada for three years or less. Despite this extraordinary challenge, TDSB students demonstrate above-average school attainment. Second-generation children of immigrant origin, who were born in Canada, perform on par with their peers on average.
This success is partly due to the Canadian full-day, comprehensive schools system. It does not track students into academic or vocational education paths until late in their school career. Another important factor is that diversity is valued in Canada and especially in Toronto. The motto of the City, of which every second resident was born abroad, is “diversity - our strength”. Diversity indeed becomes an asset when the human capital immigrants bring to Canada is utilized and the potential challenges of immigration are not exacerbated.
The TDSB follows a holistic and systemic approach to education. Every activity of the TDSB is guided by the principle of equity in terms of civic engagement and equal learning opportunities. Its guiding principles are set out in the Equity Foundation Statement. There is even an executive officer responsible for this policy area within the TDSB.
Equity does not mean that everybody is treated the same, quite the contrary: The Board addresses every challenge with targeted measures. For instance, the TDSB developed a system for measuring resource demands on individual schools. The “Learning Opportunity Index” assesses a school’s needs according to its student body. The Index takes into account the number of students from underprivileged families and of immigrant origin attending each school. Schools with particular needs receive additional support. This system is part of the “Inner City Model Schools” initiative. In this way, TDSB schools have adequate resources to provide each student with equal learning opportunities, independent of social background or ethnic origin.
Above all, the TDSB impressed the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Jury with its integrative learning culture. The diversity of a student body is reflected in school curricula, teaching methods, and staff. Providing English as a second language students with language tuition throughout their school career is another key factor for the success achieved by the TDSB. Teachers receive training to instruct English as a second language; mother tongue tuition is also supported in schools.
Individual learning support for each child is provided to students at every TDSB school in Toronto. To achieve this, the Board trains its teachers. TDSB schools are open to the community and to students’ parents. This promotes exchange between all stakeholders in education, including teachers, parents, city integration counselors and ethnic communities.
The Ontario Ministry of Education has praised the TDSB as a “world leader in equity”. The Bertelsmann Stiftung agrees: The dedication and success of the TDSB are truly outstanding and can be an example to other local school authorities! For these reasons the Bertelsmann Stiftung will honor the TDSB with this year´s Carl Bertelsmann Prize.
The TDSB has shown that above-average student attainment and equal learning opportunities for all can go hand in hand. Toronto is a particularly good example of a school system that utilizes and respects social diversity. The TDSB’s successes may enlighten education policy in Germany and encourage policymakers and schools to provide all students with equal learning opportunities.