More choices, more opportunities

Red Deer’s high school completion rate is 69 per cent, compared to Alberta’s 72 per cent. Our city graduates about 1,200 Grade 12 students a year, so the gap between here and elsewhere represents about 35 students — make that one classroom’s worth.

Red Deer’s high school completion rate is 69 per cent, compared to Alberta’s 72 per cent. Our city graduates about 1,200 Grade 12 students a year, so the gap between here and elsewhere represents about 35 students — make that one classroom’s worth.

Over the years, that adds up. If you want an honest accounting, 1,200 students only represents 69 per cent of the total; so the number of students not completing their courses by the end of their 12th year of public schooling is actually quite large: 539 students.

But you also have to realize that the majority of students who do not complete Grade 12 in the required years from Grade 9 up, do eventually complete high school — many in the year following their grad year. So the rates we see posted in the newspaper, although hardly stellar, need not really be so alarming.

There is a cost to both students and taxpayers in giving hundreds of students an extra year of high school. So it is worth some effort to get our completion rates up.

Since the public school district is asking for solutions to this problem, let’s propose one here. Let’s make high school less intellectual.

The majority program for high school students is the matriculation route — preparation for university or college.

That’s despite the fact that fewer than half of high school grads go on to complete degrees. The effect of that is that many students are getting a high school training unsuitable for their next steps in life.

That’s not a problem of students making poor course selections, nor even of school guidance counsellors steering too many kids into the wrong programs. As a parent, I’ll suggest that a lot of parents are pushing their kids into the “academic” route, so as not to limit their choices later on.

When you look at the larger picture — the portion of the total student body going on to earn degrees — perhaps parents and school administrators alike might wonder what the true limiting factor might be for student choices.

High school already allows a lot of choices for course paths leading to careers in trades. What if these choices could be expanded to include more students who are also in the academic path; at least in Grades 9 and 10, before some hard life decisions need to be made?

We see other jurisdictions (Britain comes to mind) that stream kids early into either trades or academics. What if we could allow more students to keep their feet in both streams for as long as possible? Would we be widening their choices (something parents would value) or diluting them?

Let’s suggest here that one or two semesters between Grade 9 and 10 of pure trades training need not disqualify students who yearn for credits toward university entrance.

And that at the end of high school, the majority of grads who do not end up on a university campus might have better fundamental skills for further training in a career that is enriching both physically and intellectually.

Having more university students who can properly swing a hammer or fix a leaking sink would be a good thing.

Having more welders and heavy equipment operators who have at least been exposed to a course in critical thinking or calculus would be a good thing, too.

Having more students graduate with exposure to a wide range of life choices would be best of all.

It’s not unreasonable to speculate that Red Deer’s demand for entry-level workers in the energy sector siphons off grads, or convinces them to take an extra year of high school to pick up courses they didn’t have because they had been “streamed” too early.

Those choices show up as a number on our district’s high school completion rates, but which doesn’t reflect the real situation.

Widening student choices in the early years might save them an extra year in school and taxpayers the cost of getting them ready to make real life choices.

Greg Neiman is an Advocate editor.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

With a ban on sit-in dining set to begin at noon Friday, Las Palmeras owner Andre Lemus is gearing up for more takeout and delivery business. He has also applied to set up and outdoor patio, where dining is allowed under new restrictions, and is selling his own branded seasonings, salsa, guacamole, tequila bags, margerita kits, and even aprons like the one he is wearing.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Big interest in outdoor patios in Red Deer as sit-down dining banned again

City of Red Deer has tweaked its patio regulations to make it easier to get a permit

A sustainability audit for Westerner Park suggested 33 changes, including more city involvement. (Advocate file photo)
Westerner Park expands volunteer program

Westerner Park is recruiting volunteers to fill several positions. The new Volunteer… Continue reading

Black Press file photo
Appeal Court restores privileges for man who killed five at Calgary house party

EDMONTON — The Alberta Court of Appeal has restored some privileges for… Continue reading

A 19-day trial has been set for June 2022 for Chase Freed, who is accused of shooting to death a shopper outside the southside Red Deer Walmart and firing shots at two other people in the parking lot. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Man accused of killing a shopper outside Red Deer Walmart in December 2019 to go to trial in 2022

Chase Freed charged with second-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
All adult Albertans to be offered first dose of vaccine by end of June: Premier

Alberta’s premier says the province will be “back to normal” when 72… Continue reading

Madelyn Boyko poses along with a number of the bath bombs she makes with her mom, Jessica Boyko. Madelyn says she enjoys making the bath bombs with her mom as it is a special time for just the two of them. (Photo Submitted)
5-year-old Sylvan Lake girl selling bath bombs in support of younger brother

Madelyn Boyko is selling bath bombs for CdLS research in honour of her younger brother

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on December 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Patrick Doyle
New regulator to stop sexual exploitation of children online: public safety minister

OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says the government will introduce… Continue reading

Gordon Greenwood Elementary Grade 7 students were assigned to write about climate change. The Langley Advance Times is pleased to present a selection of their writings. (Sasha/Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2019: report

OTTAWA — A new report shows Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole to vote against Conservative MP’s private bill on ‘sex-selective abortion’

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he will vote against a… Continue reading

Eugene Kwon of Gratia Bakery and Cafe says the business will be relying on take out orders and a small patio. (Neil Corbett/The News)
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

OTTAWA — A group representing thousands of the country’s small businesses says… Continue reading

Ron Howard is photographed at the "Inferno" film premiere on Oct. 25, 2016 in Los Angeles. (Buckner/Rex Shutterstock/Zuma Press/TNS)
Brothers Ron and Clint Howard have memoir coming in October

NEW YORK — Filmmaker-actor Ron Howard and actor Clint Howard, brothers, former… Continue reading

FILE - In this Saturday, March 27, 2021 file photo, Buffalo Sabres’ Taylor Hall plays against the Boston Bruins during the second period of an NHL hockey game, in Boston. The Buffalo Sabres could trade 2018 MVP Hall, who signed for just this season and is a pending free agent. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
Boston Bruins acquire Taylor Hall to kick off NHL trade deadline day

Trade deadline day in the NHL has started with the Boston Bruins… Continue reading

The Huawei logo displayed at the main office of Chinese tech giant Huawei in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. Poland’s Internal Security Agency has charged a Chinese manager at Huawei in Poland and one of its own former officers with espionage against Poland on behalf of China. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Huawei, HSBC agree on document deal for extradition case

HONG KONG — Chinese telecommunications equipment firm Huawei said Monday that it… Continue reading

Most Read