Supplementary Education in Vancouver

Some years ago, I coordinated a mini-census of supplementary education institutions in Metro Vancouver. I reported on this project in an article in Education Canada in 2008. I have continued to keep an eye out for the appearance and growth of supplementary education in Vancouver since then. (See the appropriate Canada/Vancouver category in Jukupedia).

In June 2012, Janet Steffenhagen, the education reporter for the Vancouver Sun has written a nice piece on supplementary education in Vancouver.

Ms Steffenhagen reports on her visits to two supplementary education schools in Vancouver. She draws on my research on Japan in looking at the possible factors not just in the global growth of supplementary education, but also in the motivations for students/parents in Vancouver to begin to avail themselves of supplementary education.

If you’ve been reading other entries in the Jukupedia, you will not be surprised that I disagree with some of the implications of an explanation for participation in supplementary education in Canada as rooted in “cultural” preferences, as one interview in this article with a Vancouver Sylvan Learning Centre director notes. There are many institutional and structural reasons for the growth of supplementary education and any explanations that emphasize culture (by which most people seem to mean, national origin, coupled with some kind of immutable preferences for certain social interactions over others) neglect the mediation of any cultural preferences by the institutional conditions of schooling.

Yet, even a more complex understanding of cultural factors as they play into more general institutional conditions, would note that there are real differences in expectations of education across demographic categories, including ethnic communities and origin-of-immigration. As the BC government is considering revisions to the BC curriculum through the BC Ed Plan, it would be well worth considering the impact that such revisions could have on schools (public and private) via supplementary education businesses.

One response to “Supplementary Education in Vancouver

  1. Hi Julian,

    I agree that the views concerning supplementary education in Vancouver are outdated. Kids all over the world attend after-school classes – if only to learn to speak English. From our teaching work in Spain and Germany we saw this first hand.

    You also rightly note that the view here that it’s only Asian cultures that believe in supplementary education is a falsity. We certainly don’t concur with the views of Sylvan’s director. Our customers, for example, are of all ethnicities and attend all forms of schools. The Asian families that come to us, do so because we offer something totally different from the rote memorization. We even have international families study with us while they are on vacation in Vancouver! It’s quite remarkable.

    I wish more people in Vancouver would realize that after-school education does not mean cram schools. In our case, it’s all about 21st century education, which can’t currently be gained from mainstream education.

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