If you’re of a certain age group, you remember it fondly. I’m in that age group. After four years of high school, I took the fifth year, Grade 13. I took three Mathematics courses, three Science courses, and English. We were also prefects and got to keep the grubby Grade Niners in check and we were of legal drinking age and occasionally left the school on Fridays for lunch which included a beer. We were also old enough to write our own notes to excuse our absences from school. We even had our own lounge where we hung out between classes or during spares. We had it all.
Over the years, the province did a reality check to get rid of some of this – they raised the drinking age, got rid of Grade 13 in favour of Ontario Academic Credits and then dropping them all together, and reverted to a secondary school program of four years.
So, it was with a smile that I noted that “Grade 13” was trending on Twitter over the weekend. It was from well intentioned people who obviously wanted a return to our good old days. They’ve bought into the concept of education loss during the past years as students stayed at home and moved their education online. At least for the most part. I know of some private schools around here who didn’t.
I’m wondering if these people are the ones who are quick to note that “we’re all in this together”. Because, in theory, we mostly are. We also know that the standard classroom which is the great leveler is much different when the learning moves to bedrooms, rec rooms, dining room tables and internet access of all kinds of speeds and reliabilty.
I’m sure that the comments are made with the needs of their children in mind. But, it isn’t that simple or maybe even worthwhile. First of all, a fifth year in high school is an option even today. Often, it’s called a “victory lap” and offers a chance to raise some grades, take some more courses, or putting off additional studies or the world of work for another year.
Those of us who experienced the changes in years of secondary school recognize that it isn’t as simple as flipping a switch. A great deal of time, effort, planning, and professional learning was required as the Ontario Academic Courses were brought in and then more was required as it was phased out. There was a great deal of activity at secondary schools to make all this happen.
I know, from discussions at the local university at the time, that all this wasn’t just a secondary school issue at the time. The professors were circling their wagons and looking inward at their own courses and what was going to be needed to make that smooth transition to the benefit of their incoming students, all the while concerned about the credibility and value of their own courses.
I give huge kudos to educators and students who are making what they’re doing this year work. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. Are some better at moving their courses online than others? Absolutely. Do all courses simply pivot (not my word) to online? Of course not – especially with courses that need the specialized equipment provided by the school and school district.
Online learning, when done thoughtfully can be very well received and fits a particular need. We’ve had the Independent Learning Centre, Correspondence Courses, and online High Schools for years. They are carefully crafted to ensure that their offerings address curriculum expectations. Those that teach in those environments elect to do so and take additional professional development to learn how to thrive in those environments.
It’s a huge difference in the reality that has moved an entire province into an emergency teaching and learning situation. I don’t think anyone is kidding us by saying that it’s exactly the same as business as usual. I truly believe that those who are actively trying to make it work are doing their best. I also know that there are those students who are coasting and having challenges staying abreast of what’s happening.
Universities and Colleges are struggling with what September will look like for them. It’s not going to be business as usual for anyone. I do believe that great minds are going to be empathetic to those entering their system and will bend over to ensure that incoming students will enjoy success.
For parents, it’s entirely possible that they’re looking at their own children taking Grade 12 courses and making judgement about their readiness and another year, at the Grade 13 level, looks like the solution. In my mind, that’s entirely possible and the notion of a “victory lap” may be their solution. I also believe that students are resilient and achievers at the secondary school level will success post-secondary. I believe that universities and colleges will be there to assist. I think that those who are opting to go to the world of work should society be ready for it in the fall may be in the best of all positions – if jobs exist. I’m still anxious about that.
I just don’t see a formal Grade 13 across the province addressing anybody’s needs at this time.