Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Breaking through the Glass Ceiling. the Pursuit of University Training among African-Caribbean Migrants and Their Children in Toronto

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Breaking through the Glass Ceiling. the Pursuit of University Training among African-Caribbean Migrants and Their Children in Toronto

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT/RESUME

This paper examines the pursuit of university studies among Caribbean-origin Black men and women aged 20-24 living in Toronto. Findings from special tabulations of the 1991 census show that a significant proportion of young African-Caribbean immigrants attend university. Participation rates are higher in the second generation ("born in Canada") of young Caribbean-origin adults. African-Caribbean women are, moreover, much more likely to attend university than African-Caribbean men. These indicators of social incorporation are encouraging, but do not tell the entire story. Young adults of Caribbean background are still far less likely to attend university than are Canadian-born youths as a whole. They are also far less likely to attend university than are Asian-Caribbean origin youths. This mix of findings raises questions for social policy and for theories about racism, sexism and immigrant incorporation.

Cette communication examine la poursuite des etudes universitaires chez les hommes et les femmes noirs entre 20 et 24 ans venant des Caraibes et habitant Toronto. Les conclusions de la totalisation speciale du recensement de 1991 indiquent qu'une importante proportion de jeunes immigrants afro-caraibes frequentent l'universite. Les taux de participation sont plus eleves chez la deuxieme generation des jeunes adultes d'origine caraibe (nes au Canada). Les femmes afro-caraibes sont encore plus susceptibles de frequenter l'universite que les hommes afro-caraies. Ces indicateurs d'integration sociale sont encourageants, mais ne racontent pas toute l'histoire. Lesjeunes adultes d'origine caraibe sont encore beaucoup moins suspectibles de frequenter l'universite dans l'ensemble que le sont lesjeunes nes au Canada. Ils sont encore moins suspectibles de frequenter l'universite que les jeunes d'origine asiatique-caraibe. Ce melange de conclusions souleve des questions relativement a la politique sociale et aux theorie s concernant le racisme, le sexisme et l'integration des immigrants.

Blacks share with other visible minorities, women and other groups struggling against discrimination in Canada an acute awareness of the importance of university level training. Advanced studies at the university level and related professional skills are the main avenue of social mobility for individuals in these communities and groups. Members with university education provide the entire group with leadership, legitimation in the wider society, and role-models for the next generation.

The present paper examines the extent to which young Black adults in Toronto have broken through various obstacles to undertake university level studies. This focus arises from our interest in the intense debates on the tonic of Black education in Canada. It also arises from a desire to advance our understanding of the nature of stratification and inequality in Canadian society. We explore questions concerning the way skin colour, sex, migration experience and ethnicity influence the pursuit of university studies among young adults. The findings provide an occasion for theoretical reflection on racism, sexism and the stratification of recent immigrant communities in Canada.

Issues and Previous Research

The struggle of Blacks in the school system is well known by their parents and community leaders. In Toronto, the issue is broadly debated in public and reflected in newspaper articles.

Many young Black students excel in spite of an educational system that ignores their heritage and gives them few Black role models. Too many others are side tracked into second class education because they are assumed to be incapable of handling an advanced curriculum, say members of the Black community. They are streamed into basic courses. Many give up and drop out.

(Simms, Toronto Star, 1992: E12)

Community leaders and others have proposed various ways of dealing with the problem. Recently, the Royal Commission on Learning has proposed the establishment of special "demonstration schools" and other programs to help Blacks learn better. …

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