South Dundas - March 7, 2012 - The Fraser Institute released it's annual report card on Ontario schools last week and again this year, our area is shown to be behind the rest of the province in how schools are performing. Very few area schools did well, such as in Winchester Public School, which ranked in the top ten per cent provincially. Most area schools though landed in the bottom 20 per cent provincially; a few even ranked in the bottom five per cent. There was very little, if any, improvement over last year's rankings. Good thing for the local educators that the report was incomplete. In reviewing the report, I counted no less than three schools from SD&G that were left off the report altogether, which was likely a blessing. The provincial testing system for children is flawed, replaced by the McGuinty government from the original system proposed by their predecessors, which also was flawed.
I've been fortunate, if you can call it that, to have two of my children go through the Grade 3 and Grade 6 EQAO testing. What I noticed most out of all the preparation work they were subjected to, was that some of the material being tested was not part of the actual normal ciriculum. Placing artificial benchmarks in and then craming children for the testing isn't providing quality education, it teaches sloppy work habits and underscores the deficencies in the system.
You know you feel old when you start saying phrases like, "that's not what it was like when I was in school", but that is something I frequently say now. I am a product of the 1980's and 90's education systems and the difference between what is taught now, to what was taught then, is night and day.
Take math for example, calculators were not allowed in the school I went to until Grade 8 and that was for dealing with Square Roots. Times tables were drilled into your skull from Grade 4 on and division was shown in both short and long form. Now kids are asked to bring calculators to do multiplication and division. Making change from a 20 dollar bill is going to be a real challenge for them later in life.
Another sore spot is social sciences, history and geography. What kids were taught in Grades 2, 3 and 4 - 25 years ago are now taught in Grades 7 and 8. My kids wouldn't know about the War of 1812, Confederation or such at this point in their education if it wasn't for me being a history buff and teaching them myself. Replacing subjects like history and geography in the curriculum now are things like "media awareness" and "discussing and identifying feelings". While learning to talk about your feelings is important, that's one of those "family" things, not something that should be taught in school.
Lastly, there is not enough physical education in the schools now. Today, Gym is only three-days-a-week in most schools. We had Gym every day. School yards were where you played basketball during recess or baseball at lunch. Touch football games and dodgeball. In the wintertime, playground equipment was encouraged to be used to keep warm on cold days. Sleds, or that now unheard of "Crazy Carpet", were encouraged to be brought to school. Now kids are banned from going on playground equipment because they may slip, yards are blocked off because they may be icy and recess time is mostly spent syncing up their Nintendo DS or their iPod Touchs and playing "Angry Birds".
No wonder the obesity rate is up across the country. And to solve all of these issues, the province has standardized testing to find out why kids are underperforming. Scrap the tests and go look at the schools. Put gym back to five-days-a-week, ban the iPods and DS, kick the calculators to the curb and go back to old-fashioned teaching from 25 years ago.
If a child entering high school cannot do basic multiplication up to 10 times 10 without a calculator, then our future really is in trouble.