New Brunswick's NDP leader says he wants to put an end to a no-fail policy in provincial schools if he’s elected this fall, but the Department of Education says that promise is based on a policy that doesn’t exist.
Dominic Cardy said he wants to overhaul the education system.
"We're looking at a lot of New Brunswick students, even when they get to university level having to take mandatory reading and writing classes first year of university. It doesn't make sense. So clearly there's something wrong in our school system before that,” he said.
Cardy said allowing students to graduate whether or not they pass their courses means they don’t develop a work ethic.
“And we want to make sure that happens by giving the power to individual principals, teachers and parents rather than having a bureaucracy in Fredericton decide that one size fits all, that because you started school in 2000 you are going to graduate in 2012," he said.
"It's a nice system for the bureaucracy, it saves money. It doesn't serve the students in our province."
But Marie-Claude Blais, the minister of education, said New Brunswick doesn’t have a black and white no-fail policy.
“No, there’s none,” she said. "I'm surprised that it's not well known in this province because we are world leaders. It's called inclusive education."
The inclusion policy guides schools in how to deal with students who are struggling in the classroom. The guidelines say holding students back a grade is a last resort.
“A lot of research has shown that retention doesn't actually help a child learn better,” said Ann Sherman, dean of the faculty of education at the University of New Brunswick.
She said the policy allows students to move ahead with their peers to the next grade, but, for example, take a math class at a lower grade level.
“Students still can be retained, it’s just that it's the last thing we look at because of the research we're aware of," said Sherman.
The dean said holding children back a grade damages their self confidence.
But students in Fredericton draw a harder line.
"I think they should be held back a year because if they're not doing good in that year then the next year they're not going to be able to do good,” said Grade 9 student Rhayne Storey.
Brennan Baker, Grade 10, agrees.
"Sure there probably would be a few more people that would be stuck in school a little bit longer, but at least they'd get a better education."