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Indo-Canadian Students and Post Secondary Education

Another school year has just begun. In this context, it may be appropriate to touch upon a very important subject with respect to higher education for Indo-Canadian students.

It has been reported that proportionately, far fewer students from the Indo-Canadian community are graduating from high school and post-secondary institutions than from many other communities. What could be the reason(s) for such a disparity?

In order to succeed in school, especially at the post-secondary level, a student must have good academic ability, suitable financial resources, motivation and parental /family support. Academic ability and motivation-both internal- depend mostly upon individual student’s attitude, work habits self-esteem and desire to succeed. Family support and encouragement-the external factors- are also crucial to a student’s success in school. This is where parents as well as other members of the extended family can be of great help.

Financial factors in case of most Indo-Canadian students may not be a major barrier. In a majority of cases, parents will do everything within their means to financially support their children. Also, universities and colleges offer various types of scholarships and bursaries to help needy students. On top of that, there are need based programs like Canada Access Grant for Low Income students, the Millennium Access Bursary and the B.C. loan reduction program- all tied to Student-Aid B.C., the student loan program. It is likely that similar programs may also be available in other provinces. Here in B.C., community organizations like SPARK also offer scholarships to deserving students.

South Asian Bar Association (SABA) has just set up two scholarships of $1,000 each to UBC and U.VIC first and second year law students enrolled in the 2007/08 sessions. This is a commendable move on SABA’s part. The deadline for applications is October 15. Interested students should get in touch with Jindy Bhalla at:
The importance of post-secondary education can’t be emphasized enough. It has been reported that not in the too distant future, nearly 75% of good job opportunities will go to those individuals who have a college or university degree.Various community activists and academics have been making this point for some time. Retired school superintendent, Geoff Johnson, in a recent article article in The Vancouver Sun (dated August 27), has reinforced this point.
Johnson, quoting a BC Stat report, states that persons with an undergraduate degree earn 68% more than their co-workers without post-secondary education. In other words:” School success equals life success.”

Research indicates that early oral language skills/development and parental involvement in a child’s education are two of the most important indicators of potential success in school. In the Indo-Canadian community, with a few exceptions, we seem to be lacking on this front. Those parents, who do become active partners in their child’s education, usually reap huge rewards. It gives them a feeling of great pride and satisfaction when their children go to college/university, succeed and become well-respected professionals.

There are no shortcuts to academic success. The whole process has to start even before a child enters school. Meaningful interaction with young children goes a long way in stimulating their language, curiosity and love for learning. Parents and grandparents are their great role models. The children begin to pick up cues from adults around them from a very early age. The first three or four years of a child’s life set the stage for the rest of his/her life.
Early childhood programs are considered to be crucial to a child’s learning. On-going parental support, along with a positive family environment, are some of the other factors highly conducive to a child’s education, self-cocept as well as overall social, emotional growth and development.

As a community, we need to undergo a mental shift and treat higher education for our youth as a top priority. Our youth would definitely benefit from encouragement, support and the spark to set their sights high. We need to encourage and inspire our youth to “aim for the stars”. Even if they can’t reach them, they will land pretty high anyway.
Mentorship also plays a major role in any field. In this regard, senior students at various post-secondary institutions, who have already become successful, as well as professionals, can do a great service by acting as mentors and guides for their younger peers. The Indo-Canadian community, like others, has a large number of youth, adults and seniors who are a source of great pride and inspiration. We must make every effort to capitalize on these valuable resources as well. Start of a brand new school year is the best time to start this process.

Balwant Sanghera
(Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist. He can be reached at:




Balwant Sanghera

Balwant Sanghera
President, Punjabi Language Education Association . He is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist in British Columbia ,Canada.