‘Victory Lap’ an essential experience for some students

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Gradually, the provincial government is aiming to reduce its costs by decreasing our ability, as students, to make active choices regarding our education.

With this year’s provincial budget, the initiation of a 34-credit cap on high school students was announced.

This limits students to four post-graduate credits, and in essence, phases out the option of taking a fifth year of secondary education.

Starting in September of 2013, Ontario secondary schools will be given reduced funding for students who choose to take additional credits on top of the established limit.

In the words of the provincial government: “We need to shift the culture in our schools and encourage students to graduate on time.”

A fifth year at high school is highly uncommon in some schools as it is negatively associated with people who remain behind to remedy failing grades.

However, approximately half of my graduating class remained to complete a “victory lap” together and I don’t know a single person who regretted that decision.

We stayed behind for a variety of reasons. Some wanted to improve their marks to get into post-secondary programs while others wanted a more relaxed course load in order to work and become more financially stable.

I just needed some time to figure out what the hell I was going to do once high school was over.

I credit taking an extra year of high school as the single largest determinant in helping me decide where to attend university and what to major in.

Up until the end of grade 12, I was convinced I needed to keep my options open by taking all the math and science courses available to me.

I felt somewhat of a societal stigma against only taking the required courses in these fields and it wasn’t until a few months into my fifth year that I realized my calculation skills were sub-par and if I was going to continue to take physics, it would be a miserable year.

I ended up using that year to discover my passion in global studies, which I am now pursuing at Laurier.

Had I immediately entered university after grade 12, I would likely have taken a very different path, and, I suspect would have spent additional time and money trying to figure out where I belonged.

Taking an extra year also allows students to disperse their course load and take spares as needed. Particularly for a student who is taking all three maths and sciences at the senior level, the ability to spread out courses can be highly beneficial toward minimizing stress and improving grades.

It also provides the opportunity for students to become more involved in extra-curricular activities, which can be extremely beneficial, but are often limited for students with busy schedules.

Having the ability to choose your educational path and timeline is important to developing the skills needed to make independent decisions.

Those who are prepared to leave after four years should not be forced to stay longer, just as those who need more time should be pushed out the door. The Ministry of Education acknowledged that in 2011, more than 20,000 students returned to school for at least one additional semester.

There is clearly a need for students to have the option of an extra year, one which is now being limited for reasons which have little to do with the students themselves.

At my high school, students were encouraged to take a fifth year in order to better prepare themselves for post-secondary education.

Similarly, it also helped in gaining a more diverse high school experience by becoming involved in things other than just academics.

This is no longer a feasible option, as the ability to stay for a mere extra four credits does not exist for a full-time student at a non-semestered school. Yes, students who fail courses can still make up their credits without penalization, but this isn’t something to be applauded.

A fifth year isn’t about failure, it’s about developing your ability to succeed, both in school and in whatever future endeavours you choose to pursue.

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