High school students in Nova Scotia will soon be able to earn extra credits for doing things outside of the classroom, but the announcement is receiving low marks from the province's teachers' union.

Education Minister Ramona Jennex announced the Personal Development Credit Tuesday.

Students who participate in approved programs will be eligible for the credit.

"It benefits our young people to have the work they're doing outside of school being recognized," said Jennex. "It benefits the school system if you have a child in school that is feeling very engaged in the work they're doing outside being valued in school. I think everyone benefits."

Students can pick up the extra credit through one of four programs: Cadets, 4-H, Dance Nova Scotia and Junior Achievement.

"I think it's great," said Sarah Gray, a student at Auburn High School. "Because in Cadets, you learn leadership training. You learn essential skills, and you meet so many people that influence you."

"I think it would allow them to learn really valuable skills in something that's very enjoyable," said Shawn Nicholson, who participates in Junior Achievement. He thinks it will motivate more students to get involved.

'Elitist' program

The head of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union was quick to denounce the program.

"It's elitist and exclusionary," said Alexis Allen. She said the more credits students can earn outside of the classroom, the fewer teachers the province needs.

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Alexis Allen said some students will be left out because they can't afford to participate in the activities. (CBC)

"The fact is, the more that they can get externally, why would they need a dance teacher why do they need an art teacher why would they need some of these programs. It's free in public education it's not free in the private sector. And the minister is accrediting an external source."

She believes only well-off students will be able to earn the credits.

"You have to have means of transportation, you have the cost to join it and you have to have the availability in your area,"  she said. "So it's very exclusionary, whereas public education is a great equalizer."

The minister says it's not about reducing teaching staff, but rather rewarding ambitious students. 

Students can start earning credit beginning in September. The Department of Education will begin accepting applications from other community groups interested in taking part in the credit program in 2013.