A continuation on a few thoughts on news from back home.
The Alberta government recently decided to scale back the weighting of the grade 12 provincial diploma exams from 50% to 30%. And in doing so, they completely destroyed their education system, the one thing the government had going well right now.
I’m upset, but maybe not for the reason you believe me to be. I’m not jealous that my diplomas were worth 50%, but students now won’t have to face that challenge. I’m disappointed because Alberta sold out. It was the one province that had it right – there need to be final exams worth 50%.
50% finals were a blessing in my opinion. Let’s evaluate the outcomes from all possible angles. If you perform extremely well in class, then there’s no reason the diploma should be any difficulty for you, and if you’re worth your salt the diploma will maintain your hard work. If you’re an average or slightly underachieving student in class, then the diploma is a huge opportunity to heavily bolster your mark. And if you’re a student who performs extremely poorly in class, then again, at least you’re given the chance to increase your mark significantly, although if your class work is any representation, your mark will just stay the same.
In all those cases, the final mark was either sustained or increased as a result of the diploma. Ah, but there is one other option. That your grade will suffer because of the diploma. And here’s the argument that saw Alberta falter, and most unfortunately abandon their strict policies on education.
If you’re a student who becomes easily stressed from high-stakes exams, the diploma is going to hurt your chances. It isn’t fair that no one else in Canada has to write the diploma when Alberta students do. We’re put at a disadvantage because of it, because our grades will fall due to the exam. It isn’t fair.
Wow, writing that paragraph actually made me angry. I can’t even begin to fathom who would make this argument. There are so many things wrong with it, I don’t even know where to begin.
Maybe I’ll begin with the claim that the diploma hurts students more than it helps it. Which is entirely untrue. If the exam is worth 50% of your grade, how does that statistically hurt your marks? It means you need to study, work hard – and if you do, you’ll be rewarded. I don’t want to sound pretentious here, but the diplomas are objectively easy – they are nothing to be feared. If the exams were unfair in their difficulty, then you should be worried – but they aren’t; far from it. Hell, the math and chemistry exams were so laughably simple everyone in my classes were counting their blessings that the exams were worth 50%.
Furthermore, many of the students, if not all, who made the arguments that compelled Alberta to waver are going to go to university. And when they do, they won’t have a single final exam that’s worth less than 50% of their course mark. What are they going to do then? Petition the univeristy to reduce the weightage? The powers that be will laugh and collect their money. You don’t have to like something for it to be effective. Setting the weightage of the diplomas of 50% was necessary in waking you up to the real world, and advantageously done so when you knew 8 months before the exams (eight!) that you had to be ready for it.
Honestly, most schools are already too soft on education, because when you look at the dropout rates amongst first year students in university, it’s painfully obvious that high schools aren’t doing enough to prepare students for university. Alberta’s decision not only undermines it’s status as being the one province that actually takes education seriously, it establishes itself as a pushover, one that can be swayed by a few misguided arguments. I count myself as being extremely fortunate to have gone through the system when it was still tough, because if it wasn’t, I would not have developed the study skills and intangibles that help me succeed today. Schools need to be tough on students – and it’s a sad day when I need to explain that claim, for if it isn’t already crystal clear, then the education system truly has failed us.
Quite frankly, I’m disgusted by the students who acted to force this change. If ever there was a surefire way to shoot not only yourself in the foot, but every other student to go through the system in the coming years, these kids found it. I’m not angry because they’ve ruined it for themselves, or because they’ll have it easier than we ever did. I’m angry because they’ve destroyed a functional system for generations of students to come. It goes beyond harming students who had no say in the matter, and who will now suffer because of them. I think ultimately I’m angry because these students took a system that stood above its provincial counterparts (and, for the record, was credited for doing so by said provinces) and brought it down to their level. They killed a good system, and the powers that be let them.
And why? Because they have the wrong attitude. Everything about this comes down to the attitudes of the students who brought upon this change. These students are lazy, selfish and, for lack of a better word, stupid. They’re going to live to regret the change they’ve set in place, and I hope on that day they feel remorse and the same disappointment that I, and many others, do today. It’s not the exam system that needs to change, it’s the study habits and the attitudes. Because as stressful as a 50% exam may be, you know what else is stressful? Life.