Back to school a family affair
When it comes to heading back to school, it's all in the family for the Singhs of Burnaby.
Yes, 11-year-old Varda is just starting Grade 6 at Maywood Community School, and Garima, 12, is entering Grade 8 at Burnaby South secondary.
Then there's dad Vijay, a pathologist who, because his medical degree from India isn't recognized in Canada, is in the midst of studying for all his medical exams a second time, to be followed by a redo of his residency requirements.
Now, for the first back-to-school season ever, mom Anshu, 40, is joining in.
Having earned a bachelor of arts degree in India herself, she's been mainly a stay-at-home mom since marrying.
She speaks English well (despite her protests) but after the family moved to Canada a year ago, following stints in Fiji and Malaysia, Anshu decided there was room for improvement.
She's enrolled in Burnaby school district's Literacy Foundations Program, a series of courses to prepare her for Grade 10, 11, and 12 courses on the way to a Canadian high school graduation diploma.
Anshu hopes to eventually attend Vancouver Community College for its medical office assistant course, but for now, upgrading her English skills is her first priority.
She's "really enjoying" school. More than the first time, she said with a laugh, noting that she enjoys the focus on discussion and sharing of ideas.
"The teaching style is very good here. I meet so many immigrants so I can get new friends. I'm improving my English also. That is really a great pleasure to me."
When she took her first course last November, it was tough going, she admits.
"The first few days, first few weeks I feel headache because I could not concentrate. Now, my memory is also improving."
Anshu and her daughters sometimes study together and help each other out.
"It feels really weird," said Garima with a laugh. "I've never had to explain stuff to her."
"Now she's helping me," Anshu said, adding proudly that Varda often serves as her study partner during exam time.
Anshu is among 500 to 600 students per term in the Foundations program, which operate out of three school district adult learning centres in Burnaby, said Linda Ohashi, vice-principal for the district's community and continuing education services.
While the average Foundations students are in their 30s and 40s, they range in age from 18 to 70. While many are immigrants for whom English is a second language, others are simply people who deal with literacy challenges.
And many will drop off their children at school before heading off to their own classes.
"I think that's a wonderful opportunity for children to be on the same path as their parents in learning," said Ohashi. "I think the modeling goes both ways. I think kids can teach parents a lot about learning and how to learn as well."
As for Anshu, she's sure of one thing: it's never too late to learn.
"It's not just for getting the job, it's for our mental health," she said, noting some of her classmates are seniors.
"Every day I'm learning something and this is giving me a very good satisfaction."