Eleven years ago this week, I dropped XUP Jr. off for her first day of school. She was almost 6 years old. The rule in Nova Scotia is that the child has to be 5 by October something in order to start school and her birthday is in December so she’ll always be a bit older than her peers. But that’s okay because she wasn’t really ready for school until she was almost 6.
As a youngster she was thoughtful and curious and bright and intelligent and independent and eager to learn anything and everything. If I’d had a choice I probably would have home-schooled her until she was a bit older. Because it wasn’t long until the school system drained most of the curiosity and brightness and independence and eagerness out of her.
She’s still her own person and still pulls off good marks and everything, but I don’t think she’s actually learning anything anymore – hasn’t for quite a few years now — and doesn’t seem to care all that much about it. Once she learned to read, write, add and subtract, things sort of leveled out.
Teachers get a program they have to follow. There are certain milestones the school has to prove it has achieved every year. School boards have to report back to the province. It’s all about numbers. And numbers can be fudged. Kids get an “A” for mediocre work because the class/school/board needs a certain level to maintain its funding.
There are provincialstandardized tests every few years, but kids are coached and primed to within an inch of their lives for a couple of days before the tests, so they produce inflated results.
A lot of teachers just seem bored or under too much pressure from their principal or school board to actually teach anymore. Teachers in Ontario have a starting salary of about $40,000 and go to over $90,000 after about 12 years. (High School teachers earn slightly more).
That’s not bad, though there are schools where I’m sure they’re earning every penny. But I can’t say I’ve been really excited about a lot of the teachers my daughter has had. Worse, she has not been very excited by many of her teachers. In fact, some of them just seem to go through the motions and it’s been like pulling teeth to have to sit through hours of listening to them drone on every week.
I don’t entirely blame the teachers. Most of their incentive and creativity has been stifled as well. There’s very little room/time/funding for individuality or different styles of learning/teaching. There’s just a set amount of stuff to be gotten through in a certain amount of time. Kids (and teachers) have to conform to the institution if they don’t want to get by.
No one fails. Failure is no longer allowed in schools. Everyone just gets pushed through like a grommet on an assembly line.
Students are graduating high school with 99% averages yet universities report that “most of their students demonstrated a lack of the basic skills necessary for university” and that 42% of Canadians are semi-illiterate.
We have one of the highest post-secondary enrollments in the world, (approximately 10% of our population has a university degree) but we aren’t able to compete on an international level, especially in the science, mathematics and technology sectors.
These functions are being outsourced at ever increasing levels. Canadian-based companies cannot find the expertise locally to compete on the world stage. The trend-watchers are advising parents to encourage their children toward futures in the arts and humanities sectors.
I know it’s really easy for us oldies to look back and say we knew so much more than kids today, but I still have some essays I wrote in high school and although they somehow look a lot more literate and intelligent than the stuff my daughter is turning in and she’s getting much better marks. Not that she’s unintelligent or illiterate. Once upon a time, she used to put a lot of effort into her school work and into meeting deadlines, but she’d end up with the same marks as people who handed in crap and handed it in weeks late. (Teachers are no longer allowed to deduct marks for lateness, apparantly). So now she just does the bare minimum and her marks are still very good.
I don’t think Canada has fully realized the value of giving our kids a good education. They get shuffled through elementary and high school. If they can find a way to pay for an increasingly costly post-secondary education, fine, they go on to “higher” education. If not, they’re go find a minimum wage or factory job or something. Which is a shame, because there might be some very bright people out there who simply can’t manage tuition fees. At least in the US they have state colleges.
When we watch the Jeopardy Teen Tournament, my poor child is totally lost. Ya, I know these kids are the cream of the crop, but XUP Jr. doesn’t even understand the question half the time. And she’s an “A” and “B” student.
Sometimes we watch Reach for the Top (the Canadian School Egghead Competition) and the questions are ridiculously easy by comparison.
Thank goodness neither I nor the kid have any aspirations for her to be the second coming of Einstein and that she’s been all about visual arts since she first picked up a crayon. Because we do the arts pretty good in Canada. The kid is going to an arts high school. We have some excellent arts colleges and universities. The country has produced some outstanding painters, writers, visual artists, actors, comedians, photographers. Musicians, film-makers, designers, dancers, etc.
Maybe we should stick to that and really put a lot of funding into producing the world’s best artsies?
Still, it would be nice if they knew the capital city of France or how many centimeters in a meter or what a zygote is.