Almost 3 years since our founding, all of our programs have been directed towards alleviating poverty in rural communities. While poverty isn't unique to geographic locations, we have never targeted students outside of Asian farming villages. So we are excited to announce the planned launch of our ESL program (English as a Second Language) this September 2021-2022 school year, which will target foreign middle and high school students studying in the Greater Toronto Area.
But this initiative cannot be credited to our executives or leads but rather from Teo Meng, a curriculum design volunteer and incoming Grade 11 student who brought us the idea in April. He was in the Ontario ESL system himself, being taught by teachers who have never learnt a second language themselves. While Teo has now entered the normal English stream of classes, many of his peers continue falling further behind native speakers.
The shortcomings of North America's ESL programs are not a secret. There is a long history of discrimination and violence due to language differences, which has been heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic in issues such as Asian hate. In everyday life, immigrants must navigate unconscious biases and prejudices against their accents – assuming they were even taught the language.
So back in April, Teo called for a meeting and urged several EFA executives to start creating a program that addresses the core issues facing his peers. Alex Hu, our Executive Director, told him, "Why don't you build it yourself?"
Ever since then, Teo has been recruiting a team to build the program, which will utilize peer teachers who are currently learning second languages themselves - a cornerstone of EFA's operation. He has already gathered a focus group that will beta test the program throughout the summer, until the official launch next school year.
We highly commend Teo for his will to create change. While success is never guaranteed, Teo has created an opportunity to try. Many students already know the ESL program needs adjustment, but Teo took the first step towards making a change by creating a plan and advocating for his ideas. He exemplifies that the only way that we, as students, can change the system is when more of us step up and take action towards the issues we are passionate about.
All of EFA's leaders are incredibly proud of Teo's proactiveness, and we look forward to seeing the seeds he plants now bear fruit in September.