CHRIS EUSTACE, The Gazette
Grade 10 student Erik Seguin of Royal West Academy is on to something with his idea that students ought to have a bigger say in their education. However, I think that parents should also have some input.
That said, here are four thoughts on improving Quebec’s high school education program:
1. Create 12 grades. School boards are recognizing the high dropout rates in Quebec, and CEGEPs are dealing with a high failure rate of its students. Students may very well benefit from an extra year to make up. Why not create new courses, which are of more interest to the student to keep up in today’s rapidly evolving world?
2. Extend the school day by one hour. Former minister of education François Legault’s idea to prolong the high school day by an extra hour, devoted to homework help and extracurricular activities, is an innovative suggestion. Not only would an extended school day help reduce the province’s dropout rate, which stands at 20 per cent, but also the extra hour could be used for physical activities, which would counteract the unhealthy sedentary lifestyle of many Quebec teens.
3. Introduce students to a trade.
A Statistics Canada report from last year stated that because of the retirement of the first of the country’s baby boomers, there is a skilled-worker shortage on the horizon. We should change the culture of our elementary and high school children and not think of working with our hands as something for the lower class.
We do know that vocational education, where available, has the highest retention rate of students in secondary schools. We must put trades back into our high schools. Furthermore, give our youth an incentive to become carpenters, electricians, plumbers or welders by offering some money to encourage them to continue with their studies. In the long run, we will save a lot of tax money by keeping our youth off the streets and off the welfare rolls.
4. Include humane education as part of the curriculum.
About 60 years ago, noted anthropologist Margaret Mead, who wrote books on adolescents in various societies, argued that acceptable treatment and behaviour toward animals be part of school curricula because it’s a reflection of our values as a society.
As a consequence, a few years ago, a relatively new subject, humane education, was developed and is gradually being introduced into the curriculum of many high schools in North America. Humane education examines the challenges facing our planet, from human oppression and animal exploitation to consumerism and ecological degradation. Why not introduce humane education in our schools? The course will certainly contribute to producing more caring adults.