Ontario high school graduate rates rose to over 80 per cent last year, but students on the verge of graduation say they don't feel their education has prepared them for post-secondary education or life on their own.
Students CBC Ottawa spoke with cited a number of factors, including a shorter four-year high school term, little focus on skills such as time management and a yawning gap between what is expected in high school versus university.
In short, they say they have concerns about whether they received the right skills for what comes next.
"There are some situations where I worry that focus is more on academics than life skills if that makes sense", said Elizabeth Blight, who is graduating from Canterbury high school this year after completing what students term "the victory lap" — a fifth year of high school for students who aren't sure they are ready after four years.
"If you are not going into biology ...what you learn about the inner workings of a fetal pig is never going to help you later in life. It's more skills you learn like get your stuff in on time... that other people need you to get this done, that if you don't perform, that you don't do it in real life, there are no extensions," said Blight.
81 per cent provincial graduation rate
On Tuesday the Ontario government announced that 81 per cent of high school students graduated in 2009-10, an increase from 68 per cent six years earlier.
But Mark Langar, the president of Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, said provincial grades and graduation rates are hollow, having been inflated for years.
"When the Ontario Scholar Program was introduced in the 1960s, five per cent of grade 13 graduates were Ontario scholars," said Langar on Ottawa Morning, referring to the designation given to students with an average of 80 per cent or higher. "Now over 50 per cent of students graduating from grade 12 are Ontario Scholars."
"Are Ontario students that much more brilliant that they can do 10 times better [as a group] with one year less education?" he asked.
He said school boards that allow students to coast through high school aren't doing the students any favours later on, though he notes that university graduation and continuation rates have also been rising.
Increased workload in university
Olivia LeBlanc, a psychology student at Carleton University, said the amount and quality of work done in high school doesn't compare to university.
"I would have particularly liked a little bit more help in that area so that I did feel more prepared, so that going from high school to university wasn't such a big shift," she said.
Ben Harrison, who like Blight is a student at Canterbury, said he isn't confident what he learned in the four years of high school will be enough for what he expects to face. He said course curricula have increasingly become packed with more information, leaving less time for learning life skills that might help outside a classroom.
"I feel like self-motivation is going to be the big issue for me," said Harrison.
"It's going to be hard because you are in a world where you don't have the parents telling you what to do, prodding you in the right direction and you are going to be around friends a lot more so there's definitely going to be a lot more procrastination," said Harrison.