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Blog: Thursday, April 4th, 2019

Are Our Students Prepared?

By Dr. Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

Most of you will know that the Ministry of Education annually surveys students about their experiences in school. The Student Learning Survey, administered in grades 4,7,10 and 12 asks students about a variety of things related to their experiences in school. The topics range from safety to perceptions of belonging and social numerous other indicators. The fact is that we now have more access to student information than we have ever had. At a recent meeting I attended, we discussed the response to the questions we ask our grade 12 students. Here are our average results:

  • 43% of our students said they felt that school was preparing them for post-secondary education (provincial average is 37%)
  • 30% of our students said that felt that school was preparing them for a job in the future (provincial average is 24%)

The consensus from the adults discussing this topic was that students were not in a good position to answer the question. How does a grade 12 student who has not been to university or had a full-time job provide reliable information about the extent to which their school experiences prepare them to be successful in this area? This was a valid point, one with which I agreed.

However, we did not (yet) ask two bigger questions:

  1. Should we not talk to our students about how they arrived at their responses?
  2. Should our schools not be organized in such a way as to make student responses to these questions more valid?

Assuming for a minute that the questions themselves are indeed valid and ought to tell us something about how well we are fulfilling our mission, would it not be important to speak with our upcoming graduates about how they arrived at their conclusions about their learning experiences? Have they been taking dual credit courses and begun to form an opinion about what is required of them at the post-secondary level? The fact is that many of our students will graduate with dual credit due to our partnership with institutions such as UFV and Kwantlen University. Did their parents, older siblings or school counsellor shape their opinions? Have they had a job which has helped to inform them about the demands of the workforce? We might be surprised by the responses. Regardless of what they say, discussing it with our students will serve the purpose of shaping theirs as well as our understanding of this vital component of their educational experiences.

A more important point that we ought to discuss is WHY students do not have a reasonable and accurate picture of what post-secondary and work is like. While I would argue that schools exist for more than preparing students for the “next phase”, I also think it makes school significantly more relevant when students see what they are learning applies to the world outside the walls of their school. And whether we like it or not post-secondary and the work world are essential parts of that reality that helps to make school more meaningful.

By the way, there is a reason why more Abbotsford students see this connection than others across the province. Career education is a massive investment in our district and the students who participate in these programs see their value and appreciate school all the more for it. Check out our Career Programs.

The big question for me is why every student does not have consistent and meaningful exposure to the world of work and/or post-secondary as part of their K-12 experience? One of the problems is that we see K-12, post-secondary and careers as three separate entities. What if every student starting in grade 10 had a prolonged opportunity to work in an internship of some sort that would also inform them about post-secondary opportunities? There are individual schools like this dotted over North America and Europe where industry, post-secondary and K-12 form a tighter bond to allow students access educational experiences that are truly unique to their interests and needs. Here is one such example in Colorado.  

The fact is that that K-12 schools by themselves cannot create these experiences for students. But we can lead the way; we need to see ourselves as curators of instructional experiences targeted at providing students with the knowledge, competencies and attitudes to navigate their futures. Schools cannot do this alone; we need industry and postsecondary to do this in serious partnership with us and families.

We are certainly not there yet, but we must aspire to be so if we expect to create more meaningful opportunities for each student.  We certainly need to do this if we expect more than half of them to tell us that they feel prepared for what lies ahead.

By Dr. Kevin Godden
Dr. Kevin Godden
Dr. Kevin Godden

By Dr. Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

Kevin has been the Superintendent of Schools for the Abbotsford School District since July 2011, overseeing some 19,000 students and 2,500 employees. Kevin is committed to student success in all forms and envisions a school district that can nimbly respond to the ever changing needs and interests of its students.