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I have been an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator. Currently, I am a faculty member in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My M.Ed. and Ph.D. had a focus on the educational and linguistic experiences of children who moved from other countries to Canada.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Which is more important ... having connections or money?

As a researcher interested in international and comparative education, I am intrigued with how young people in countries like Haiti and Canada pursue career options.

Last night, I was talking with Doody and Samy, two young Haitian men who are pursuing a university education. Doody (centre) is interested in psychology and Samy (right) wants to be a medical doctor.
Samy has received a scholarship from a Canadian organization to support his medical studies. However, he wasn't able to gain entrance to one of the top medical programs in Haiti despite performing well on the medical exam. This raised the question - why?

As we talked, it became clear that they felt that it was because he didn't have a connection at the university to which he applied. Samy believe that, because he was perceived as coming from a poorer background and without the university's knowledge of the scholarship, he was not able to gain a spot on the med school roster. Samy indicated that if he had a connection at the university, someone who would speak up for him, he would have been accepted because his med school exam results were strong. He also felt that some med school candidates had received entrance offers, not because they performed well on the test, but because they were well connected.

This raises lots of challenging ethical and social justice questions. It also made me question whether similar practices (nepotism?) occur in Canada? Certainly, I don't see it happening in the university contexts in which I have worked but I do hear about it in work places.

The reality is that, whether in Haiti or Canada, having both connections and money helps in pursuing careers. The challenge, whether in Haiti or Canada, is what happens if you only have connections or money? What happens if you have neither?

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