Many immigrant youth view postsecondary education (PSE) as an important, even essential, means of economic mobility and social integration (Cheung, 2007). Gaining access to a PSE program builds on a record of academic engagement and achievement in high school. There is, however, mounting evidence of considerable variability in the preferences, performance, and eventual post-high school (PHS) pathways of immigrant students (Anisef et al., 2008; Thiessen, 2009). Many high school graduates enrol in a college or university while others either delay PSE entry or move directly to the labour market and a significant number leave before graduating. The PHS pathways of immigrant youth, then, can involve transitions to the
postsecondary system, the labour market, or both. The bases for these decisions are complex and include personal characteristics, family resources, and community support factors as well as the individualâ€™s school and classroom experiences (McAndrew et al., 2009).
Previous research on the high-school transitions of immigrant youth in Canada has several limitations (Boyd, 2008). First, studies on school achievement and educational aspirations of immigrants have compared 'immigrant' versus 'non-immigrant' groups. These studies have found few aggregate differences between those born in Canada and those born outside Canada. Such comparisons conceal significant variations among immigrant students that affect the likelihood of PSE participation. Second, PHS planning and preparation are made relatively early in adolescents' educational careers yet most studies have employed cross-sectional or retrospective designs that did not adequately consider the effects of important antecedents on students' PHS pathway choices. Third, previous comparative research has not considered differences in immigrant generational status. First generation immigrant youth1 are those born outside Canada while those considered to be second generation were born in Canada of immigrant parents. To the extent that the school experiences and PHS aspirations of each differ, it is important to distinguish first, second (and third) generations. This is especially the 1 Please note that this term should not be confused with ˜first generation students", which refers to those who are the first in their family to attend and/or complete PSE, regardless of immigration status.
2 â€“ Post-High School Pathways of Immigrant Youth case in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) where 42 per cent of students are foreignborn and 38 per cent are born in Canada of immigrant parents. Only 20 per cent of TDSB students have both parents born in Canada. These students comprise the third generation, sometimes referred to as the â€˜third plusâ€™ generation, and frequently employed as a reference group in comparative research. (Yau and Oâ€™Reilly, 2007).
In this paper we disaggregate the "˜immigrant" designation by source country (region-of-origin) and generational status to examine the PHS pathways of a cohort of TDSB youth who began high school (Grade 9) in September 2000 and were tracked through the high school system until Fall, 2006.
The specific purposes of the study were to:
1. Construct profiles of the various immigrant (and non-immigrant) groups comprising the 2000 TDSB cohort.
The elements of each profile include information on students, their school, and neighbourhood characteristics as well as the reported PHS pathways they followed between 2004 and 2006.
2. Predict PHS pathway choices based on this profile information.
The PHS pathway decisions predicted were defined by: (a) those respondents that confirmed university acceptance; (b) those that confirmed community college acceptance; (c) those that graduated high school but either did not apply to PSE or did not confirm an application; and (d) those that left high school early and did not apply toPSE.
The cultural and social composition of Ontario is undergoing dramatic change as a consequence of immigration. This is most obvious in its larger metropolitan areas, particularly Toronto. In many ways, Toronto is a precursor of the demographic change the rest of the province (and Canada) will experience within a few years as immigrant youth become the majority of the school-age population. Our aim in studying TDSB immigrant youth as they prepare for the transition from high school is to extend the literature on immigrant settlement and contribute to informed educational policy and practice.