Secondary school credit cap will hurt university students


The Ontario Ministry of Education has implemented a “credit cap” that would prohibit secondary school students from attending high school after they have completed 34 credits.

As a post-secondary graduate who reaped the benefits of attending high school for five years, my feelings on the subject fall somewhere between disappointed and disturbed.

When five-year high school was phased out in 1999, many students in my hometown chose to still stay in high school for five years to develop a better sense of what direction they were heading in. I was one of those students.

A lack of direction wasn’t my only contributing factor in deciding to stay behind. I wanted a chance to make some more money through part-time jobs. I also wanted to pour some more attention into my extracurriculars such as dance and theatre. I needed to mature quite a bit more before leaving. Most importantly, my parents were beginning to worry about the prospect of having three children in university at the same time.

My own sister, a 2002 graduate, was the only one of my siblings who chose to do her high school education in four years — despite being a student in the five-year program. She chose to fast track, largely to avoid the competitive double-cohort of 2003, and went off to major in biology. In a tragic twist of irony, my sister ended up dissatisfied with biology and switched her major to physics and radiation therapy, which she was unable to transfer any credits to and ended up costing her another two full years in school.

She is not the only person I know who has lamented rushing into university. I know countless students who have left school, changed programs or simply spent their four years in school completely depressed knowing that they were in a program that was not to their best interest.

I have also had many conversations with friends who have said that they would have taken a fifth year of high school had they even been made aware of the option. Many schools, unlike my own, seldom presented the idea of a fifth year as a plausible alternative for unsure students and even treated the option like a last resort for failures.

With the provincial government behind this stance, students have become even more discouraged from staying behind should they be unsure of their future.

The government justifies the credit cap by stating that they are attempting to encourage students to determine their future goals at an earlier age. This is exactly what causes problems for a lot of students. Teenagers are asked before they’re even pubescent to determine exactly what path they should be taking.

Had I listened to my fourteen-year-old self about career goals, I would be miserable in pursuit of a law degree — assuming I hadn’t dropped or failed out of my program.

University — news flash — is a huge expense. The fact that parents are willing to put thousands of dollars a year into a future their child is unsure of saddens me. The education system further perpetuates the problematic idea that everyone progresses and matures at the same rate, and those who do not follow this rate are punished.

Of course, the fifth year is not right for everyone. Some students are naturally far more mature or more convicted about their ideas. But the option should still be there, and should still be presented as a valid and viable alternative. Why shouldn’t students be encouraged to dip their feet into everything they can while it’s free?

The government thinks that it’s a travesty that nearly 13 per cent of high school graduates returned for another year after earning their diplomas last year. To me, I see that 13 per cent as a group of students who are avoiding potential depression and anxiety over program changes and dropouts over the next four years.

Bree Rody-Mantha is a Laurier graduate and former Features Editor and Lead Reporter with The Cord.

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