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Inflation of high school marks: A false economy

February 12, 2013 Leave a comment

The system of education in Canada has put tremendous pressure on students.  Greater numbers of students flood post secondary institutions in hopes of gaining the requisite qualifications for a job in a particular field.  These post secondary institutions base their acceptance almost entirely on marks (though some also require supplementary essays and letters of reference as well).  The sole focus of senior high school students is marks.  They NEED them to continue their educational journey in hopes of a good career.  The sheer number of applicants to a program means that the minimum averages for a given program become inflated and students need higher and higher averages to even be considered for these coveted spots.

This crucible is exaggerated by the fact that astronomical averages can be bought at private schools, affectionately termed “marks mills”, by students who are known to their day school teachers not to have the skills and abilities to attain them via conventional public schools where teachers feel some moral duty to uphold academic standards.

Ironically, it was the Canadian Universities who fought for Full Disclosure Transcripts of students coming out of high school, which provided them with not only the top 6 marks of the student, but all of their marks from grade 11 and 12 as well as the number of times they have retaken a course to improve their average.  However, these same institutions have continued to accept the marks issued from dubious institutions, further perpetuating this situation.

Moreover, it seems that completion of a post secondary program does not mean what it used to.  Recent grads face staggering unemployment and underemployment.  CBC Doc Zone aired a documentary entitled “Generation Jobless” where they investigated the fact that Canadian post secondary institutions continue to graduate students despite the lack of demand.  This is most apparent in the number of Ontario graduates from Teacher’s College.  Perhaps the colleges and universities simply are not interested in what happens after their program ends, preferring to enrol students, put asses in seats, and laugh all the way to the bank.  The result is a population of young workers deeply in debt, under experienced, over educated, and dissatisfied with their job prospects.

Such a system does students a great disservice.  Marks are not the end goal; skills are the true target.  Marks are theoretically the communication of how developed a students skills are.  However, when students focus only on the marks, and ignore developing their skills and understanding, they have missed the point.  And perhaps they are not the only ones.  What is the purpose of the education system if not to equip our youth with the abilities to succeed in the world?

Given what we know about the prospects of getting a job in today’s current market, it almost seems advisable for a high school student to drop out of school, get a job apprenticing or volunteering in a particular industry when they don’t have any financial burdens, gain valuable hands on experience,  and either work their way up or start their own company?  This way at least they are free from debt, have some money in the bank, and are seemingly no worse off than if they had spent all that time in the education system.

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