I think I have already made it clear that there are many avenues to which the Ontario Education System can improve the learning and development of our children and youth. At the same time, however, I think that it is also important to address the fact that some issues are often not the cause of those making policy decisions. Educators and policy supporters cannot force people to have more kids; the decline in birth rates – across the country – is a staple fact.
According to statistics gathered from the World Bank, the 2014 Canadian fertility rate was 1.61 per female, while the 1960 rate was 3.81. Canada’s rate also remains lower than both the United States and Mexico. Because there are less children being born, there is evidently less children to teach in classrooms.
“So what is the issue Jillien?”
WELL, the baby boomer stage (i.e. when women were each having an average of four children) evoked a demand in schools for children to be educated. These buildings are the same spaces where children are learning today. Because there are less children to fill the chairs and empty hallways of these buildings, we run into a cost-analysis issue.
A recent article from Southern Ontario comments on how schools in the Bluewater District School Board are far from reaching their maximum capacity: “Beavercrest, with 192 pupils, is less than 40% full.”
“So what can we do about it Jillien?”
WELL, as much as I can attest to the fact that close and convenient options for schooling would be idealistic, I believe that a consideration of funding should come first. The Rainbow District School Board, in my home town of Sudbury, Ontario, announced early in the year that eight schools will be shutting down. The board noted that these closings are a result of the small school populations and will contribute to annual savings of 2.2 million dollars! The board is in the midst of expanding other schools to accommodate for the students requiring to move.
Because these changes are in my home town, I am well aware of the effect that they are having on the community. Many people – including students – are unhappy about this news (but that should not be a surprise). Parents and guardians might now be required to help their student accommodate in a new school setting; one that is most likely further from their home. The students at Lively High School actually fought against these changes by going on STRIKE. Yes I’m serious. Here are pictures to prove it!
Yep. The school is no longer closing! The school board acknowledged the geographic base that Lively High School covers and came to a solution with the supporting community; Lively will serve as the central high school in that region.
However, and as I’ve already mentioned, I am all for the school board’s changes in my community. The education system needs to modify themselves according to the time period. In this day and age, we simply do not have enough students to fill the same spaces that were used to educate students 40 years ago. In the span of roughly seven years – from the time my sister was in high school until the time that I finished – the population of my high school even dropped from roughly 1100 students to 700! The need for condensation of some sort is visible with my own eyes!
The solution to educating students amid this issue is pretty straightforward: by an amalgamation of schools (i.e. closing a handful of schools and having one large school to accommodate all students), class sizes will increase. Certainly, class sizes are a whole other issue at hand, but considering birth rate declines go hand in hand with this issue, I’d also like to partake in the current debate.
Here is an interesting video highlighting some of the challenges that teachers face with large class sizes. Although this video is a little older and based on American education, I do believe that the issues described are relevant in any classroom experiencing such an expansion with pupil population.
I agree that larger classes MIGHT be detrimental to student learning: not only are students left with less one on one time with the teacher, but more students in a classroom has the potential to create an undesirable environment for learning; as the video mentions, students can become loud and distracted by others.
BUT, then I am left to think: can larger classes promote greater opportunities for students to learn from one another? Larger classes can lead to larger amounts of group activities and interactive class lessons and discussions. Also, having educational assistants (EAs) in the classroom to aid the teacher in learning and maintaining a fun environment might reduce the stress on teachers as they face larger piles of material to prepare and grade.
I could rant pages and pages on this topic, but I’ll save you the time and leave with one final thought! I honestly believe that larger classes are simply necessary amid the current statistics of our population. I would much rather the ministry have funding to implement new programs and course opportunities than waste it on keeping schools – schools that are half-full – standing. BUT, do not forget that teachers need help; education should remain meaningful for all pupils and meaningful learning requires more hands involved in classrooms to ensure that every student continues to be accounted for.
Happy learning! 🙂