NDP Leader Dominic Cardy's proposal to end the no-fail policy in provincial schools turned into a sparring match with cabinet minister Jody Carr on social media on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, Cardy announced that if he's elected this fall, he would overhaul the education system and eliminate the practice.
He contends many students with a high school diploma don't have the skills to further their education because at some point they were pushed ahead before they were ready.
Carr, who is Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour, and former Education minister, was not available for an interview. But in a post on Twitter, he likened Cardy's proposal to a public stoning.
"NDP calls for 'social consequence for a child not doing well in school.' Really?! Why not put in city square and stone them. Aghast," Carr tweeted.
Cardy responded by accusing Carr of defending a system that has "failed our kids."
"Social consequences of being unprepared for life beyond school is what worries me. Low literacy scores worry me," he wrote.
Some Twitter followers pressed Cardy to elaborate on his call for social consequences.
"For me it was summer school so I wouldn't have 2 repeat Gr10 math," he wrote. "Learning consequences 4 my actions."
Grade levels 'artificial'
Cardy says his proposal to end the no-fail policy in New Brunswick schools would not unfairly single out students.
Instead, it would help break down the idea that age and grade levels should dictate how a student advances, he told CBC News on Thursday.
Cardy calls grade levels in public schools "artificial" and argues the Department of Education puts too much value on them.
Students should not be forced to tackle new subject material before they are ready, he said.
"We've got to get away from this ivory tower approach in which we're thinking that just by being nice to children — I'd argue we're being anything but," said Cardy.
"Let's stop trying to impose a one size fits all system developed in Fredericton that says because I was born in 1970 by the time I graduated in 1988 I needed to have gone through these 12 artificial divisions. The point is, by the time I finished, I need to be fully literate, numerate and hopefully have a wide range of experiences in other subjects," he said.
"What I'm talking about is individualized care led by empowered teachers and principals in a school, hopefully in partnership with the parents, but more importantly, if the parents aren't engaged, to make sure all our kids are given equal opportunity which is the whole point of having a public education system," he said.
Peer mentors could help students who struggle with a particular subject, Cardy added.