Do Ontario Students Want Grade 13?

Mustafa Khan has no doubts which of the last two school years has been better for him.

“I’m in 10th grade. I was in high school for two years, but I’ve actually only been in it once,” he said. “I didn’t respond very well to (online learning). I absolutely hated it…I thrive on person, like seeing how people interact with each other, it only benefits my knowledge.”

The Toronto high school student described something many teachers, parents and students have pointed out in the course of the pandemic: that the shock of sudden online learning left them academic and social.

It’s like they missed a year of school. Teens now completing 11th grade have not had a continuous year of high school.

But ask Khan if he would like to follow a proposed solution from the Ontario Liberals and opt for a rank 13 to make up for lost time, and he’s a lot less certain.

He said it would feel like he was dragging out of high school longer than necessary, and that while students like him may feel they are falling behind due to the pandemic, it would only be enticing with improved course offerings that could help him. to prepare for university.

The opinions of Khan and his classmates on the idea are important. The grade 13 proposal, submitted by Liberal leader Steven Del Duca at a campaign event this week, would be opt-in — a $295 million provincially funded plan to give students the option to return to high school for college. a fifth year of study.

High school students already have an option for a fifth year of high school, which is often referred to as a “victory round” or “super senior year,” but the cost of the schooling falls on school boards.

The return of Grade 13 would be a major change in Ontario’s education system.

After years of debate, Ontario ended a fifth year of high school in 2003, as it was the only North American jurisdiction that still offered it.

The previous PC governments of Mike Harris and Ernie Eves from 1995 to 2003 that made the decision – which had been recommended to Bob Rae’s previous NDP government by the Royal Commission on Learning.

Bringing back grade 13, including a series of new courses in finance and civics, would take time and probably wouldn’t be ready by next fall, Del Duca said when announcing the pledge ahead of the June 2 vote.

The pledge would also include hiring enough teachers to support more students for longer periods of time in school, and offering more subjects.

But whether such a program has value is ultimately determined by the students.

Aida Chaudhry, another grade 10 student in Toronto, said she would have a hard time making it to grade 13 — unless there was an option to earn a bachelor’s degree in fewer years.

She’s just happy to be back in school in person, and thinks her academic skills and school spirit are already improving without needing an extra year.

“My studies were so bad online. I used to be so distracted by my phone,” she said.

This was also reflected in her figures: “Now I am in the mid-nineties, last year it was the seventies.”

But some students have long been drawn to the idea of ​​an extra year of high school.

Austin McLaughlin is one of those students. He said he was thinking about taking a victory lap anyway – regardless of COVID-19, and spoke of bringing Grade 13 back.

“I would take it because if you have another year to divide your courses, it would help a lot to get to college,” he said. “I tried it before because I wanted another year in high school, just to, you know, be on the sports teams and have fun.”

What students seem to agree on is that it’s good to have a choice.

Grade 11 student Nicholas Giannantonio said he likes the idea of ​​Grade 13 even if he wouldn’t do it himself.

“It wouldn’t be necessary because I think I’m completely caught up on my race and all. But for someone who is a little behind or wants to do something in the future and hasn’t taken the specific courses they needed, Grade 13 would be good,” he said.

With files from Rob Ferguson

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