The Toronto District School Board wins the Carl Bertelsmann Prize 2008
The Prize honors exemplary work in fostering integration and promoting equal opportunity in education
The Bertelsmann Foundation has announced that the Toronto District School Board has won this year's Carl Bertelsmann Prize of €150,000 for its exemplary work in promoting social integration and improving equal learning opportunities at its schools. The Board, which is responsible for more than 550 schools in Canada's largest city and largest immigrant community, has been particularly successful at integrating children and young people of migrant origin. The Board also ensures that disadvantaged students and schools in high-need areas receive additional support. According to data from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), the average achievement gap between second-generation students of immigrant origin and their peers in Canada has been closed.
The award is based on international research conducted by the Bertelsmann Foundation. It sought out examples of integration in education that provide students of immigrant origin with equal learning opportunities. In addition to the Carl Bertelsmann Prize 2008 winner, three initiatives from England, Sweden and Switzerland were shortlisted for the Prize.
"The Toronto school system is an example of how we can address the challenges of globalization, migration and demographic change," said Dr. Johannes Meier, member of the Bertelsmann Foundation Executive Board. Germany is also a country of immigration, yet it has not completely understood how this affects its education system. In Germany, a student's attainment still strongly correlates with his or her social background and ethnic origin. In this respect we can learn from Canada, and especially from Toronto."
The jury for the Carl Bertelsmann Prize 2008 was impressed by the Toronto District School Board's comprehensive and systemic approach to integration. It is based on an "Equity Foundation Statement" that promotes participation and equal opportunities. The Toronto District School Board is the only school authority in Canada that employs an executive officer for equity issues. The School Board has also developed strategies for delivering targeted support to schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
The district's schools aim to provide low-achieving students with individual support in the classroom. Many students have access to language learning in their native language throughout their education. The diversity of the student body is reflected in school curricula, teaching methods and staff.
Toronto district schools interact with and engage local communities, especially migrant associations and parents. For instance, settlement workers, who help new immigrants integrate into Canadian society, maintain offices in many schools. The School Board has also developed, in close consultation with key stakeholders, innovative programs to reduce student dropout rates. It runs a comprehensive, regional support program for schools, offering training for teachers and parents.
"The Toronto District School Board teaches us that successful integration must be based on appreciating diversity," Dr. Meier continued. "Additionally, we should promote systematic teacher training in Germany, so that all teachers here can successfully educate diverse student bodies."
With this year's Carl Bertelsmann Prize, the Bertelsmann Foundation emphasizes the need for Germany's education and school systems to become more integrative if the country is to master the challenges of migration and demographic change. "It is a matter of fairness that education and opportunity in our country are not determined by a person's ethnic origin or economic background. We need an education and school system that fosters integration, promotes participation and provides every child with equal learning opportunities," concluded Dr. Meier.
The prize will be awarded on September 4, 2008, in Guetersloh, Germany. The Federal Minister of State for Integration, Prof. Maria Böhmer, will deliver the keynote address at the award ceremony. The Bertelsmann Foundation has given the Carl Bertelsmann Prize annually since 1988 to honor innovative policies for key social policy challenges worldwide.
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