Immigrating students see differences in school systems

By Jocelyn Reimer
Garden Valley Collegiate
Winkler, Manitoba

Immigrants are flocking to Winkler faster than ever. People from Germany, Mexico, the United States as well as many other countries are finding new opportunities right here in Winkler, Manitoba. The question is, how does our school system compare to the school systems of the countries from which these students come?

Winkler Park

Many people in Winkler probably think of our school life as "the way all schools are. " This, however, could not be more false. Other countries have completely different systems and therefore, make the lives of the students very different.

Irina Derksen moved to Winkler from Germany when she was 16 years old. According to her, schools are very different in Europe. European schools only go up until grade 10. After this, students can decide if they want to graduate and go into some form of apprenticeship, or they can choose to move onto a three-year program that is required to qualify for university.

This is only the beginning of the differences between schools in other countries. Matt Pauls, Garden Valley Collegiate's student council president, was born in Asuncion, Paraguay and attended a private Spanish school there. School began at 7 am but ended at noon.

Garden Valley Collegiate varies in many aspects including teachers, classes, graduation activities, extra-curricular options, and even transportation. Many places, including Europe and Paraguay, regard school as a place to learn the subjects taught and nothing else. GVC is a place to learn, not only about curricular subjects such as physics and math, but also about life, through such extra-curricular activities as sports, drama, Spotlight Concerts and many other things. Schools in many other countries do not offer extra-curricular activities and once the day is over, students leave the school and do not return until the next day. If students wish to participate in activities, they must join clubs in their community.

All in all, schools are much less formal and strict in Canada than in other countries. A student would never be allowed to talk, eat, or even chew gum during class in Europe or South America. Relationships with teachers are also very limited. One would not speak to a teacher in a conversational way, but only in a deferential manner. Lunch periods are much shorter and
students certainly do not have "spares". On top of everything, students must take the city bus to be at school, which usually starts before 8 a.m. in Europe and even earlier in Paraguay.

Derkson believes that school in Winkler is much better than school in Germany. She feels that here she has more freedom and can enjoy school while she is still learning. Her only complaint is that they never had exams back in Germany and she finds the exams here incredibly difficult.

Pauls, however, feels that life in Winkler and Paraguay cannot be compared. He says that there are many advantages to Garden Valley Collegiate such as more freedom and opportunities, but that there are also disadvantages such as a longer school day.

So how does Garden Valley Collegiate compare to other schools around the world? The differences seem endless. In general, GVC seems a more relaxed and enjoyable environment with many more opportunities and extra-curricular activities. Every country is different and every school within each country also varies, but it looks as though GVC has proven itself to be an excellent learning environment. That may explain why there are so many immigrants are
coming to Winkler.