grade 13 ontario

Grade 13 may be coming back in Ontario and everyone seems to think it's a good idea

The proposal to bring Grade 13 back to Ontario public high schools is just one of many promises that have been thrown around leading up to the provincial election next month, but it's one that is getting some of the most buzz.

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca revealed this key part of his education platform on Friday, saying that by Grade 12, many students just "aren't ready for college or university," especially those who have had to complete two years of inconsistent, largely remote schooling during lockdowns and are feeling behind as a result.

Grade 13 was standard in Ontario until the late 80s, after which it was changed to Ontario Academic Credits (OAC), which was then phased out in 2003.

Many residents seem to think that cutting the additional year was a huge mistake, forcing teens to make major decisions about their future at a young age. 

The educational impacts of the pandemic and resultant closures in particular are why Del Duca wants to implement the program ASAP.

"Giving those kids the choice of attending Grade 13 will make sure they’re prepared to take the next big step in their lives," he says in his release.

Under Liberal leadership, the fifth year of secondary school would be optional and fully funded by the government, and would include classes on topics like financial literacy, mental health and civic engagement.

While some feel that this concept is "nothing new," as some students can and do already extend their high school career for a semester or two — also known as a victory lap — the lack of provincial funding means that school boards pay the price, and kids are in many ways discouraged from opting for this route.

Under the current system, there is also no structure to a victory lap, unlike the Grade 13 that Del Duca is suggesting.

Though the majority of reactions thus far appear to be in support of the idea, there are a few naysayers that wonder if kids will actually want to attend and if it will just serve to cause further complications for students.

Some also note that virtually no other jurisdictions in North America (and none in Canada) offer the option of a formal Grade 13.

The move would cost $295 million and would last four years, after which the government would assess whether it should be extended permanently, though the focus is, again, on kids hindered by pandemic-era learning.

In the case of a Liberal victory, Del Duca says that Grade 13 would be implemented ASAP, even potentially by September 2022, though he admits that would be a "difficult" timeline to achieve.

He also said in his presser today that other provinces may follow suit and "realize that this is the way to go."

Along with the plan to bring back a voluntary Grade 13, the leader also plans to hire 10,000 new teachers, 5,000 new special education professionals and 1,000 mental health professionals in schools, as well as introduce a hard class size cap of 20, and build 200 new schools and repair more than 4,500 others.

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