August tends to be a slow month in many Vancouver schools, but down at the District Reception and Placement Centre (DRPC) located in Moberly Elementary School, the halls and classrooms are buzzing with activity. Charged with coordinating the entry of thousands of new Canadians into the VSB system each year, August is by far the busiest time for the DRPC.
During this month, centre staff will greet, assess and place roughly one third of all students who come to Vancouver each year. The diversity of students being placed is impressive. New students hail from around the world and speak languages ranging from Mongolian to Spanish, from Sinhala to Russian. While most years the majority of DRPC students come from Mainland China, this year there is also a particularly large number of Iraqi, Sri Lankan and Mexican students. To properly provide service to these new Canadians, DRPC staff need to be linguistically well equipped. With the 15 different spoken languages at the DRPC each day, DRPC Manager William Wong says his team is uniquely prepared to give a warm (and comprehensible) welcome to just about any new student. This is part of the reason why the VSB's intake program is lauded as one of the best in the country.
Another reason for its strength is its inclusive intake procedure for both new students and their parents.
During a typical day, DPRC staff greet 45-50 new students and their parents. First step is to register the students. Students then head to the gym and nearby classrooms for evaluation and assessment. Then its orientation time for their parents. That's where Wong says he gets to explain the basics of Vancouver's school system. The first order of business is to dispel many rumors some parents bring with them from their home countries.
Wong carefully explains to the dozens of parents from around the world assembled that no schools are "better" than other schools. He takes parents through the multitude of opportunities new students can pursue to graduate. He explains how competitive and challenging our universities can be and highlights how homework loads in Canada tend to encourage personal development and teamwork as opposed to rote drill.
But the best part of his orientation session with parents always tends to be the same. It's the moment he sees the light bulb go off as parents and they understand how flexible the Canadian education system is. It's a perk that never gets old.