Provincial budget proposes a cap on the victory lap

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By Diana Hall

Taking on a fifth year of high school may no longer be an option, according to the proposed 2012 Ontario provincial budget.

The provincial budget, tabled on Mar. 27, included a cap on the number of credits students can acquire during high school.

Although students only need 30 credits to graduate, the government is recommending a limit at 34, meaning students would be allowed one extra semester.

“Ontario continues to accommodate up to 20,000 students returning for a fifth year, many of whom have already received their secondary school diploma,” the budget reads.

The move to quell the victory lap – which is regarded as a continuation of the eliminated Ontario Academic Credit (OAC) – is expected to save the Ontario government $22 million a year, and focus on propelling more students to graduate on time.

Dan MacDonald, guidance counsellor at Sinclair Secondary School in Whitby, cited stacking up missed or failed prerequisites, balancing a multitude of interests, and different levels of adolescent maturity as reasons why 13 per cent of high school students stay back for an extra year.

MacDonald also pointed out that “it’s not that (students) didn’t get into college or university, it’s the fact that they changed their direction.”

Although the cap would only be implemented in 2013 to give students, parents and teachers time to plan accordingly for the transition to university, students who have completed the full fifth year of high school say that it helped them mature and prepare for post-secondary endeavours.

“Being given a second chance was really good for me,” admitted Samantha Bogdanovich, a second- year radio and television arts (RTA) student at Ryerson.

Bogdanovich admitted that her struggle with maths and sciences at Jarvis Collegiate Institute in Toronto landed her with a low average that would have stopped her from getting into a university program.

She credits the victory lap for giving her confidence and the opportunity to apply to RTA.

“I learned that I could improve,” Bogdanovich said. “I really wasn’t doing well in grade 12, so it made me happy to know that I could do better and was doing better, and had a chance of getting into the programs that I applied to get into at universities. I actually had a chance.”

Lesley Wagner, Durham College professor at the school of justice and emergency services, said that while she believes the extra four-credit cap is reasonable, high schools could be doing more to help prepare students who struggle with course work and life-decisions.

“A career cruising website at half a credit does not make somebody know what they want to do for a career,” Wagner argued.

She also stated that in order to increase the number of graduating students and encourage ambition, high schools need to implement more “general life prep” for students.

“Where do we go from here?” Wagner said. “Do we have high schools pay for students to mature, (or) do we have parents pay for them to mature at summer school or night school?”

Heather Krepski, academic success facilitator at the Learning Success Centre at Ryerson, does think that the university could offer a non-credit orientation and learning strategies course.

“I think we can do a much better job at transition programming,” Krepski said.

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