Ontario is making the wrong move . . .
Opinion of Trevor Robinson, a former OCDSB Student Trustee
“I personally do not believe that having a 34 credit cap is in the best interests of Ontario. It certainly would be a fairly small drop in the bucket financially speaking.
While reducing a student’s tendencies to want to take a true “victory lap” is a good goal, sometimes that additionally year is not actually a victory lap, but more so simply taking an extra year to try to find the desired path for oneself. We should not penalize (generally speaking) a student for taking another year to shore up courses that they either require or feel that they require for the future, or simply because the old saying ‘I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up’.
If a student cannot learn the way that we teach, perhaps we need to teach the way that they learn.” Not every student is alike, everyone learns differently, at a different pace, with a different drive; it is not prudent to try to paint all students with the same brush.”
I speak to this from a unique perspective as in high school and even in college (and some days even in the ‘working world’. While yes I did obtain my OSSD after four years, I did however return, not for a victory lap, but simply because I wasn’t sure of which path I truly wanted to take. I returned for OAC, but I did not at the time, nor do I now, consider this a ‘victory lap’.
To put things into perspective: during my fifth year, among other things I served as Student Representative on the OCDSB’s Chairs Committee, I was Assistant Volunteer Coordinator with the Ottawa Race Weekend (in part, helping to coordinate over 2000 volunteers) and I held three part time jobs. During my sixth year, I continued as Assistant Volunteer Coordinator (and was later “promoted” to Volunteer Coordinator the following year), I served as Student Trustee with the OCDSB as well as Eastern Ontario Representative for EPBC on OSTA-AECO, helped run the tech/stage crew for my school, dealt with the emotions surrounding 9/11 (and having a family member who had recently retired from the police force), dealt with the deaths of two very close family members and continued to hold three part time jobs (the same ones as the previous year, not new ones).
What did I learn both inside and outside of the classroom during those two ‘victory laps,’ among other things, countless life skills that cannot be easily recorded on a report card. Among other things I gained or further built upon an understanding for municipal, provincial, federal and international politics, event planning and management, volunteer recruitment and management, time management, problem solving skills, how to work well under pressure, media relations, public relations, public speaking, interacting with politicians and dignitaries, student representation, the writing of policies and procedures, consulting on government bills, budgets, human resources, legal issues related to electronic mail, rules of order for meetings, union negotiation and representation, health and safety, lobbying behind closed doors, writing press releases and how to write a really long sentence and still leave things out. During those two ‘victory laps’ I met the then Governor General of Canada, the then Premier of Ontario, the then leader of the provincial opposition (who later became Premier of Ontario), countless Ministers and Ministerial Staff along with countless municipal politicians and staff and finally, members of the media. Also during my term as Student Trustee I jointly submitted a report and recommendations to the OCDSB on best practices moving forward for existing and new secondary schools after touring all the regular daytime secondary schools of the OCDSB along with some of the schools in other boards. I have been happy to see that some of those recommendations have been put to practice.
The point that I am trying to make is that had I not had the opportunity to take the extra time (without penalty) I would be a very different person that I am today; I fear that I would be a lesser person that I currently am. Do not paint all students with the same brush; do not restrict students’ access to education just to save some cash simply because the small savings that might be achieved from one budget this year or next will likely have unfathomable costs in the future. Take the time to make the right choice and provide the right options for the long-term do not be narrow-minded and only concentrate on the short term savings.”
"Take the time to make the right choice and provide the right options for the long-term do not be narrow-minded and only concentrate on the short term savings."
The Ontario government's decision to reduce the number of students returning for a fifth year of high school, has caused some local students to worry about being pushed out of their schools before they are ready.
The cap on 34 credits could affect a percentage of local students if current enrolment statistics are any indication. A good portion of this year's about 16,500 Grade 12 students at the SCDSB would have been caught by the new policy and large portion of this year’s 262 Grade 12 at Central would have been impacted.
That's because the government isn't completely blocking the so-called Victory Lap. As announced in the 2013 Budget, the number of high school credits will be capped at 34 - four more than required to earn an Ontario Secondary School Diploma.
I am a 17-year-old Grade 12 student at Central, and am returning for a fifth year.
Many students, myself included, are not ready to graduate for one reason or another. This is a crucial stage in our growth – at 17 and 18 – and the life decisions we’re being asked to make are hard. The decision to go off to post-secondary, going into large debt, is not one that many students are not ready for nor are they ready financially to support it. Taking the extra year to cement their plans by taking extra courses and working offers the opportunity to think and prepare for what we want to do.
I still have the opportunity, as the credit cap only came into effect this school year. This cap is part of a wide range of cost saving measures the government's taking to eliminate its current $15.3-billion deficit. The government estimates that the cap would save $22 million per year and still provide some flexibility for students. However, I believe any future students won’t be as fortunate as we have been.
"This cap will motivate students to plan their courses appropriately while allowing them to seek additional or upgraded credits," the government states in the budget.
Ontario eliminated the Ontario Academic Credit system in 2003, but as many as 20,000 students still returned for a fifth year in high school.
Some students aren't ready to leave high school after four years or they may still need certain credits for what they want to do after high school. We are deciding what path we're taking for the rest of your life. I must express my frustration over the government's decision; however, I am able to see the fiscal reason to the cap.
“It's not clear what it would mean to students who change their post-secondary education plans and need additional credits for a program but don't have space under the 34-credit cap,” said Kawartha Pine Ridge DSB Chairwoman, Diane Lloyd. "We haven't heard those details yet," she said. “We need to see what they're actually telling us." Lloyd is uncomfortable with the Drummond Commission recommendation to eliminate the "Victory Lap" and to charge a fee for credits beyond the four years needed to get a high school diploma. "Some people can afford it. Others can't," she said.
The former McGuinty government was good to education, for its continued support of early learning and smaller class sizes even as it tried to balance its budget. I certainly understand that we need to find ways to economize, but I believe there are better ways to go about it.
High school students are unsure about many aspects of their futures, and I can empathize by saying that I don’t know what I am going to do about my future debt. Granted, there are many students who aren't planning to stay in high school for five years, but eliminating that option, could spell trouble for the future economy and job market. If the government is going to force students to be ready at this age, then they have an obligation to prepare us first.
It is no laughing matter to say that some students who need certain courses - but don't have the space under the cap - may need to intentionally fail in other courses, and this could become a real problem in the future.
Undoubtedly, this situation is leaving many students feel unprepared to “move on” and it setting them up for hardship. This issue demands for immediate action, and it is up to everyone – students, teachers, parents, and educational executives – to collaborate with higher authorities to completely re-work our outdated education system.
As a current Student Trustee at the SCDSB, this pressing matter is something that I plan to address. Students are my top priority, and it is my job to help be their voice and fight. I encourage others to join, and stand up for education
An opinion piece by Brandon Amyot