Breaking: Winnipeg launches first Filipino bilingual curriculum

Ivy Lopez Sarmiento’s twin daughters will now have the opportunity to attend a Filipino bilingual kindergarten program next fall with the recent announcement of its approval. (CBC)

Winnipeg, Manitoba/Toronto, Ontario

First in Canada but Toronto has a Filipino-centered curriculum

By Ted Alcuitas

The first Filipino bilingual program in Canada will launch this fall in Winnipeg’s Seven Oaks School Division. The approval of the program was announced by ANAK Publishing Workers Cooperative Ltd. in its Facebook Page on June 9. 

The long-awaited announcement was made during the SOSD 120th Philippine Heritage & Independence Day Celebration on June 9.

The proposal for a Filipino bilingual program has been discussed by the division, one of the biggest in Winnipeg, and  became official when the required registration of 18 full class size for each grade was reached.The program is still accepting applications for Grades K to 3.

Half of the Manitoba curriculum will be taught in Filipino and the other half in English.

Ivy Lopez Sarmiento, one of the parents who has advocated for the program, has signed up her twin daughters, Isabel and Anabel.

“They were born in Canada, they’re being raised in Canada — I don’t want them to lose identity,” she said. “I want them to be proud of the fact that they are Filipino-Canadian, ” she told the CBC in an interview last April.

Porfiria Pedrina, a teacher and president of the Seven Oaks Filipino Employees Association, said Filipino will be the language of instruction in social studies, music, art and physical education.

“The emphasis will be on Filipino culture and history for this program,” she told CBC.

Community advocates Ivy Lopez-Sarmiento, Darlyne Bautista, & SOFEA President Dr. Porfiria Pedrina .(Facebook, ANAK)

Filipino (Tagalog) is now the second most-spoken language in the city. In sheer numbers, there are more Filipinos in Toronto and Vancouver, yet the Filipino community makes up a larger percentage of the population of Winnipeg — 8% — than any other visible minority.

Winnipeg is home to 56,400 Filipinos, making them the third largest Filipino community in Canada by total population, however the largest by percentage (8.7%).

Toronto has Filipino-centred curriculum

Although Winnipeg is the first to have a Filipino bilingual program, Toronto launched last March a Filipino-centred curriculum.

The geography curriculum is one of three new educational programs developed by the PASSOC Project, a joint initiative by Toronto Catholic District School Board and York University staff, which also includes teaching materials for Grade 6 social sciences and Grade 6 to 8 dance courses. The 285,000-strong Filipino community in Greater Toronto is among the fastest growing immigrant communities here, reports The Toronto Star.

Grade 8 students from St. Ursula Catholic School, Chanelle Cabrera, (left). and Vincent Austria who helped with the new Filipino curriculum for their geography class.  (VINCE TALOTTA / TORONTO STAR)

PASSOC stands for Philippine Arts and Social Studies in the Ontario Curriculum and is pronounced “pasok,” which means pathway, gate and entry in Tagalog.

The effort was prompted by research from York University geography professor Philip Kelly, who found children of Filipino immigrants often had lower education attainment and less upward mobility than their peers in Canada, especially other Asian students, even though their parents were among the most educated compared to other immigrant groups.

“This project grew out of our attempt to address the root causes behind these youths’ abnormally lower education achievements among immigrant youth,” said Kelly, adding that seeing the “deprofessionalization” of their parents into manual jobs in Canada is a big disincentive for Filipino youth.

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