Newly-arrived teens are learning English now at Queen Elizabeth School in Edmonton, and are very likely to seek post-secondary education.

Newly-arrived teens are learning English now at Queen Elizabeth School in Edmonton, and are very likely to seek post-secondary education.
Photo Credit: Terry Reith/CBC

Immigrants more likely to attain higher education

People who come to settle in Canada before the age of 15 and children born here of immigrant parents are more likely to get post-secondary education than are other Canadians, according to research. This is opposite to what occurs in many European countries.

Normally, parents’ higher education and higher incomes are predictors of who will get a higher education, but neither seems to matter among first and second-generation immigrants. Even if immigrant families are poor and parents don’t have much education, the children are more likely to continue their education past high school than are other Canadians.

‘It all comes down to…motivation’

“In a nutshell, I think it all comes down to…motivation,” says Ross Finnie, a professor and director of the Education Policy Research Initiative at the University of Ottawa. “These people come to this country…It’s a land of opportunity. It’s a second chance…they see education as being the key to the opportunities they’ll have in their lives here in Canada.”


His research suggests that 86 per cent of children who came to Canada got postsecondary education and 84 per cent of children born in Canada of immigrants did too. That compares with just 72 per cent of non-immigrants who obtained the higher education.

Prof. Ross Finnie says immigrants to Canada are more likely to get a higher education regardless of their parents’ income or educational levels.
Prof. Ross Finnie says immigrants to Canada are more likely to get a higher education regardless of their parents’ income or educational levels.

Institutions designed for everyone, says researcher

The research doesn’t say why this is, but Finnie says some possible contributing factors are clear. First, education is egalitarian in Canada. Higher education may be a little more expensive than in some European countries but it still is accessible. He also cites a good attitude toward immigrants.

Immigrant pursuit of education seen as good for everyone

“Our institutions are built to provide opportunities for people from across the population and socio-economic status,” says Finnie. And while it’s only speculation, he says “I think the answer is that we have the institutions that give them these opportunities and we have the attitudes that encourage them and bring them into the mainstream. So, they have those opportunities and they take advantage of them.”

This, he notes, is good for the immigrant and good for all of Canadian society.

Categories: Immigration & Refugees, Society
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