It was the warmest welcome they had ever received in their various trips to schools around the world indicated one member of a delegation of 12 Swedish Folk High School principals who visited Vanier College on April 11, 2011. “Swedish Folk High Schools are a rather heterogeneous phenomenon, but there are common attributes,” stated Henning Süssner who led the delegation. “All schools are active in immigrant language training, lifelong learning activities and are rather often engaged in different sorts of community work.”
The visitors came from major Swedish cities as well as provincial areas and their visit focused on the challenges of adult education in a globalized world. The delegation had studied the Canadian education system and was impressed by its variety—especially academic institutions involvement in community work, integration and inclusion of immigrant students and continuing education programs.
The Vanier International Education Office hosted the visitors. Gilbert Héroux, the Director General, gave them a brief overview and history of the cegep system in Quebec, followed by a discussion about Vanier’s diverse student population and meeting its needs. Subsequently, Henning Süssner described the concept of Folk High Schools in Sweden and each delegate provided information about their respective institutions. Afterwards the delegation toured the college to see our facilities and learn about the services provided, and to get a feel for Vanier’s multicultural and diverse student population.
In the afternoon, Sylvie Lord, Tami Belhadj, Michelle D’Elia and Dale Gallagher from Continuing Education and Chris Hall from the Vanier College Language School made presentations on providing continuing education to adult students and meeting the needs of second language learners at the college. As well, Danielle Brown, responsible for Student Development and Orientation in Student Services, spoke on diversity and engaging student life on campus; and Marya Grant, Learning Specialist at the Learning Centre presented on Multiculturalism at Vanier College. Both presentations highlighted Vanier’s ability to integrate a multicultural dimension into both academic and non-academic initiatives at the College.
“It was interesting that despite differences between the Cegep and the Swedish Folk High School systems, educators in both places are dealing with the same challenges and seeking innovative ways to overcome them,” states Melanie Hadida of the Vanier International Education Office. “The Swedish delegates were impressed with how Vanier’s faculty and staff works to not only integrate and include students from other countries and cultural communities but also celebrates the unique diversity and multiculturalism at Vanier College.”