There is no doubt in Mustafa Khan’s mind which of the last two school years has been the best for him.
“I’m in 10th grade. I’ve been in high school for two years, but I’ve actually only been there for one,” he says. “I wasn’t very sensitive to (online learning). I absolutely hated it… I thrive on the person, like seeing how people interact with each other only benefits my knowledge.
The Toronto high school student was describing something that many teachers, parents and students have pointed out during the pandemic: that the sudden jolt of online learning has left them behind academically and socially.
It’s as if they had missed a school year. Teenagers now graduating from Grade 11 have yet to have an uninterrupted year of high school.
But ask Khan if he would like to follow a solution proposed by the Ontario Liberals and opt for a 13th grade to make up for lost time, and he is much less certain.
He said it would feel like dragging out high school longer than necessary, and that while students like him may feel they’ve fallen behind because of the pandemic, it would only be attractive with offers. improved courses that could help her prepare for college.
The opinions of Khan and his classmates on the idea matter. The Grade 13 proposal, raised by Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca at a campaign event this week, would be optional — a $295 million provincially funded plan to give students the option to return to high school to a fifth year of study.
High school students already have an option for a fifth year of high school, often referred to as a “victory lap” or “super senior year,” but the cost of tuition falls on school boards.
The return of Grade 13 would be a major change in Ontario’s education system.
After years of debate, Ontario ended a fifth year of high school in 2003 because it was the only North American jurisdiction still offering it.
The previous Conservative governments of Mike Harris and Ernie Eves from 1995 to 2003 that made the decision — which was recommended to the previous NDP government of Bob Rae by the Royal Commission on Learning.
Bringing back Grade 13, including a slew of new courses in finance and civics, would take time and likely won’t be ready by next fall, Del Duca said when announcing the pledge ahead of the vote on the June 2.
Commitment would also mean hiring enough teachers to support more students in school for a longer period and additional subject offerings.
But whether such a program will have value will ultimately be decided by the students.
Aida Chaudhry, another Grade 10 student in Toronto, said she would struggle to make it through Grade 13 – unless there was an option to earn a bachelor’s degree in fewer years.
She’s just happy to be back at school in person and thinks her studies and school spirit are already improving without needing an extra year.
“My studies were so bad online. I was so distracted by my phone,” she said.
It could also be seen in his notes: “Now I’m coming to the mid-90s, last year was like the 70s.”
But some students have long been drawn to the idea of an extra year in high school.
Austin McLaughlin is one such student. He said he was considering taking a victory lap anyway — regardless of COVID-19, and was talking about going back to Grade 13.
“I would take it because having another year to space out your classes would help a lot getting into college,” he said. “I was already trying to do it before because I wanted another year in high school just to, you know, play sports teams and have fun.”
What students seem to agree on is that having a choice is good.
Year 11 student Nicholas Giannantonio said he liked the idea of Year 13 even though he wouldn’t do it himself.
“I wouldn’t need it because I think I’m kind of caught up all the way and everything. But for someone who is a bit behind or wants to do something in the future and hasn’t taken the specific courses they need, then grade 13 would be fine,” he said.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION