A Regina student is speaking out after Regina Public Schools announced it's cutting the International Baccalaureate program from all high schools in the city.
Jonah Toth, 17, is a student at Campbell Collegiate enrolled in the program and is set to graduate with a special IB diploma in the spring.
"It is a holistic program that really creates well-rounded learners that are involved in their communities and really are going to be the next generation of world-changing [citizens]," Toth said.
"It's not just about the cost ... it should be seen as investment in the future of Saskatchewan." - Jonah Toth, IB student
More than 4,000 schools around the world offer the program, which emphasizes academics and professional development. Many students use it to prepare for university or as a stepping stone to a variety of careers.
Toth plans to use his education to enter McGill University in Montreal and study medicine.
This is the final year for the program in Regina and high school students currently enrolled, at Thom and Campbell, will be able to finish their specialized studies.
Officials from Regina Public Schools said cost was the primary issue behind the decision. According to a report prepared by officials, the cost for 19 students in the program at Thom last year was $20,875 each and $7,592 for each of the 230 students in the program at Campbell. The difference in the two schools is because there are more students enrolled in the program at Campbell and the expenses for the instruction are therefore spread out over a greater number.
Altogether, for the 249 students, the school board's cost for the program was just over $750,000 for last school year.
Decision to cancel is 'grave'
Toth said cancelling the program because of the cost is wrong and calls it "a grave decision."
"The school board has really put an emphasis on the dollars and cents, but we strongly believe that merely looking at the numbers doesn't really reflect the true merit of the program and all of the other benefits that it brings to the community," he said.
"It's not just about the cost ... it should be seen as investment in the future of Saskatchewan," Toth said.
The school board also said enrolment was an issue but Toth pointed out that enrolment in the program at Campbell has been increasing steadily and the decline in enrolment, at Thom, was a small drop. Toth also noted that Saskatoon is expanding the number of schools offering the IB program.
All students benefit from IB trained teachers
Toth said there are also side benefits to the program. As an example, he noted how his teachers have gone through specialized training in order to provide instruction in the program. Those additional skills may be applied to the all classes they teach, so other students — not in the IB program — benefit from their expertise.
"The school board has painted a picture that we don't believe to be entirely true," Toth said. "We're trying to bring the truth out."
Toth said cancelling the IB program would mean that students seeking a broader education will have to find a private school and that will lead to challenges of affordability.
"Public education is all about creating the next generation of people who will lead our province into the future. IB is one of those programs that will help make that a reality," he said.
When the issue of cutting the program was brought up, a year ago, Toth and some other students started a petition to save the program. It attracted more than 1,300 signatures.
"We are hoping to expand this [petition] initiative and really fight to save the IB program," he said.