10/03/2013 02:39 EDT | Updated 12/03/2013 05:12 EST

B.C. Migrant Students Want Credit For Learning English

A group of migrant youth are calling on the B.C. Ministry of Education to give students credit for learning English, the same way native English speakers get credit for learning a foreign language.

Under the current system, students in English Language Learning courses -- formerly known as English as a Second Language courses -- do not receive school credits for taking the class.

Diego Cardona, 17, is a member of the Fresh Voices Youth Advisory Team, a group of migrant and refugee students who have started an online petition asking the B.C. Ministry of Education to change their current policy.

Cardona, who is originally from Colombia and now attends Sir Winston Churchill Secondary, says it's a matter of fairness.

"I guess what we're trying to address here is the issue of equality... acknowledging the work that students put into learning a language."

According to the petition, migrant students often graduate later than their counterparts because the lack of credit for E.L.L. courses means they have to make up the credit elsewhere.

Cardona says it's time for that to change "so that when we transition into the regular system, we don't have to make up 70 or 60 credits, but that we have to make up the 20 credits that we have to take as mandatory courses."

The Fresh Faces Youth Advisory Team began meeting in 2011 with the support of the Vancouver Foundation, a charitable organization focused on community development.

The group recently published an online report containing a variety of recommendations for the Ministry of Education that come directly from migrant students.

The Vancouver Foundation is now trying to facilitate a conversation between the students and the ministry.

"Our desire is that the ministry and the immigrant youth can have an informed conversation based on groundwork, based on this type of report," says Kevin McCort, president and CEO of the Vancouver Foundation.

The Youth Advisory Team will continue to gather signatures online until later this fall, when they hope to present the petition to the Ministry of Education.

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