Curriculum: The Double Cohort Effect
The Double Cohort Study written by Alan King of Queen's University reveals a critical problem in the Ontario education system. The report indicates that 25% of the students that started the new four-year high school curriculum are unlikely to graduate. In addition, approximately 30% of the student population return for a fifth year in order to seek their diploma. Current statistics reveal a 30% dropout rate in Ontario, an increase of 8% since the implementation of the new curriculum in 1999. In other words, approximately one-third of all students in high school decide to quit...
Education and the Job MarketAn important source of power and authority for the education system is its connection to the workplace. While we know that education does not, for the most part, directly prepare students for a specific job or career path (nor does it intend to), we do know that a high school diploma is required for the vast majority of jobs. Does this not seem like an odd proposition? We imbue education systems with the power to grant diplomas that offer passage to a job market, yet at the same time the education system is often far removed from the realities of the job market.
If we were to remove the requirement of a high school diploma in the job market we would effectively reduce the power and authority of the education system. There are some key questions to consider:
- What percentage of students complete a high school diploma simply because they know they need one to secure a job?
- Is education so weak and fragile that without imposing this kind of nonsensical requirement on students they would likely leave high school anyway?
- If students leave school, does it mean they are somehow deficient or simply that they are smart enough to see the deficiencies of the education system?
- If education aspires to teach the whole student and prepare them for life, then why does it need to have the power to control who can and cannot apply for certain jobs?
- What percentage of students would finish a diploma simply because they see the value of education as an end unto itself?
- What jobs actually require the knowledge and skills learned in a high school education?
Education and the Power to Marginalize PeopleSince we live in a society that effectively prohibits people without a high school education to apply for many jobs, students not completing a diploma have effectively been marginalized in our society. In other words we have told them, "If you do not pass high school, your future in the workplace will be jeopardized."
Of course, most of us agree that getting a good education is important for everyone, but is there any real evidence to suggest that a high school education should be a prerequisite for the job market? Can we even characterize the nature of their education as being good?
Everyone deserves a rewarding education and career, this goes without saying. Unfortunately, educational "visionaries" have been influenced by this feeble connection between schooling and the economy for a long time now. Are we really saying that someone with a high school education is more intelligent than someone that does not have one? I have met many people with numerous degrees that seem something quite a bit less than brilliant; I have met many people without degrees that are quite brilliant.
Education: A Toy For Politics and CorporatismPoliticians, with their close connection to corporatism, often seem unable to see beyond their own assumptions. Worse, they sometimes fail to take into account how their actions will impact human lives. The negligence of the Ontario Ministry of Education in implementing sweeping, yet foolish and mis-guided, curriculum changes has and will continue to negatively affect the lives of many students for years to come.
Apparently, the Ontario Ministry of Education has had this report in its possession for a number of months (see last paragraph here). There has been time enough to react and plan and yet all we get are trite responses from the Minister of Education telling students and parents not to give up hope and that help is on the way - of course what they should hope for and what help is on the way is not mentioned. He further advises students to stay in school when a perfectly normal response is for them to leave.
Dropping out of school may in fact be an intelligent, sane, and necessary response to a system that has little integrityWhy should they remain in a system that marginalizes them in society? We worry about the economic impact of this problem, but what about the effects of the hidden curriculum? It is possible that many students leave school as an act of survival? Is it any wonder that some students are angry?
Key QuestionsThere are many questions that need to be pursued:
1) How can parents seek legal action against the double cohort as they have with the Grade 10 literacy test?
2) Exactly what help is on the way for students that have already dropped out? Where do they go now? Who do they turn to?
3) Is there a correlation of any kind between the curriculum changes of the late 1990's and increased instances of violence and bullying?
4) What is the psychological impact of the double cohort on students and parents? Has the double cohort in fact victimized many students?
5) How will school dropouts find a meaningful career? Should our society continue to assume that a high school diploma is a prerequisite for the job market?
6) What evidence exists that the double cohort curriculum should continue?
7) Will journalists move beyond generalized reporting and get directly involved with the parents and students that have been victimized?
8) Can a social network be leveraged to help resolve the problem?
9) The impact of the double cohort has also affected elementary schools as well as colleges and universities. Who will report on this?
10) Is there something we can do as a society to ensure that no government is allowed to bully changes through the system as they did with the double cohort?
When A Problem Tries To Be It's Own SolutionThe typical government response is to make more of the same - throw more teachers at it, throw more money at it, throw some new courses at it, prohibit dropping out until 18 (instead of the current 16). Dropout rates are not likely to improve. None of these "solutions" will have a sustainable nor durable effect on the education system. The problem cannot be solved be adding more of the same.
The most fundamental problem is an education system that seems completely incapable of adapting and evolving itself to change. Instead of growing, education for the most part has maintained a defensive and self-fufilling posture that has more to do with preserving itself than it does educating people for life.
- Hidden Curriculum
- High School Diploma
Double Cohort Study
People For Education: Double Cohort Study - Phase 4 (October 15, 2005)
The Ontario Government's Initial Response
The Response to the Report from the Ontario Minister of Education
Selected Coverage 2004
1) 40,000 teens facing failure - The Toronto Star
2) Thousands give up on four-year HS program - CBC News Ottawa
3) Ontario Students Struggling in a Four-Year Program - CTV News
4) Thousands of Students Unlikely to Graduate - The Globe and Mail
Selected Coverage 2005
1) CTV News: Ontario tries to curb rising student dropout rate