Perhaps members of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board should
take a look at the 2011 census before making their final decision to axe the
International Baccalaureate program at Sydney Academy.
Just in case they haven't noticed their neighbours' for sale signs, or the
distinct lack of young families on the island, the census will remind them Cape
Breton's population declined by 4.1% between 2006-2011.
It's one of the many reasons it's hard to understand the board's proposal
to cut the IB program at Sydney Academy, the only school in the board to offer
Graduates of the advanced courses program have an enviable success rate.
Most go on to university with handsome scholarships. They are exactly the kind
of young people any community would want to foster and nurture. People you hope
will return home one day to become the entrepreneurs and leaders of the
Governments, business leaders, and academics have spent countless hours,
and millions of dollars, trying to come up with ways to resurrect Cape Breton's
economy. But unless you are the provincial government you can't order people to
move to Cape Breton. People will only move (or stay) if they believe there are
opportunities for themselves and their families.
Parents will, at the very least, expect their children to have the same
educational opportunities in Sydney as they would if they stayed in Halifax or
any other major centre.
That's why in a region with double digit unemployment and a declining
population, cutting the only IB program for advanced students, just
doesn't seem to make sense.
Certainly not to H. John Harker.
The president of Cape Breton University issued a statement late last week
in support of the IB program. Harker writes "I am of the view that Nova Scotia
must expand, not limit, the ability of its school children to engage with the
unique rigours of the IB world, and I see this as essential to ensuring the
province can fashion and maintain a place in a challenging global economy, and
thus offer the chance of sustainable livelihoods to its people."
In other words, if Cape Breton wants to thrive, if it wants to avoid turning
into a retirement community, it needs to offer its best and brightest every
possible opportunity to excel.
It's community building 101, a lesson the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional
School board seems to have missed.