Hamilton

The high cost for Ontario high school students of cuts to elective courses: Lawson

Education cuts by Doug Ford's government to elective courses are going to come with very high costs to Ontario students, according to David Lawson, a career educational planning specialist. He spoke with the CBC about why those programs are important.

At Mayfield Secondary School in Caledon alone, 22 courses have been cancelled

Cuts to education have resulted in the loss of many elective courses for high school students across Ontario as well as job losses for teachers. (File photo/CBC)
Education cuts by Doug Ford's government to elective courses are going to come with very high costs to Ontario students, according to David Lawson, a career educational planning specialist. He spoke with the CBC about why those programs are important. 7:11
 

For high school students developing a love for music, technology or the arts these are stressful times. 

Provincial cuts to education made by Doug Ford's government have led to teachers losing their jobs and high schools canceling some elective courses in those subjects.

At Mayfield Secondary School in Caledon alone, 22 courses have been cancelled. Not having these electives might make it tougher for students to find a place at a college or university in those fields. 

David Lawson works with high school students as a career educational planning specialist and spoke with the CBC's Conrad Collaco about what the cuts to electives might mean for Ontario high school students. He also founded the Career Planning and Employment Centre at McMaster University in Hamilton. You can read an abridged and edited version of the interview or listen to the full audio interview by hitting the play button above. 

David Lawson, career and educational planning specialist 
(David Lawson)

What types of courses are at risk of being cancelled?

The ones getting the attention are the art, music and drama courses but there's a lot more at stake than that. There's physical education, native indigenous study courses, environmental studies and media studies. Entrepreneurship and sports marketing may also disappear.   

Teachers in very large courses are going to be stretched more thinly and will be less likely to have the time to invest in activities outside the classroom.- David Lawson, career and educational planning specialist

What do we lose when we take away access to those kinds of courses?

We lose the ability for students to be introduced to subject areas that may shape and influence their choices moving forward. They won't even have access to courses like law or courses that can really shape how a student thinks about his or her own future. 

In many of the more competitive admissions programs, and there are many in colleges and universities where there are many more applicants than places available, supplementary applications become essential to being successful and the kinds of experiences students build can come from those courses. They also come from activities in the school that may also have been eliminated. Teachers in very large courses are going to be stretched more thinly and will be less likely to have the time to invest in activities outside the classroom.

Leadership experiences will be lost. The ability to work as a team or develop skills in particular areas that may be important moving forward will be lost. That can be in athletics or art, music, drama — not being able to understand what the core subject matter of courses is, is really going to reduce people's possibilities. 

What kinds of kids will suffer from these cancellations?

Student services will be cut as well. If you pull into core courses in the math and sciences then you are going to have to reduce services as well as course choice. Students who are at risk because of emotional or psychological challenges — and of course we're hearing, day after day, about the level of stress students are experiencing. Students who experience learning challenges are also not going to have resources. It's going to be the most vulnerable students who are either not going to have those services or going to have to take them in the community and that can be very expensive.

How will this change the way post-secondary schools accept new students?

I'm not sure it's going to affect post-secondary schools very much. They're faced with a large number of applicants. They're having to make difficult choices. I think it's going to affect the students themselves. They won't be aware of some of the possibilities they might have pursued with enthusiasm. They will not build the experiences. They won't have the support services to be able to move forward. 

Students are making choices about their courses for post-secondary eight to ten months in advance of those courses beginning. You're making a course choice in January for September. You may not have even taken courses that are pre-requisites for programs you want to pursue and if you change your mind, what you pick in January might not reflect how you are feeling in September. The courses you might want to change will not be available to you. You can get pushed to online courses or night school where you will have a very different learning experience. 

What recommendation do you make to the students who come to you who have lost electives?

We're trying to help young people and their families make confident choices about career direction that will value their interests and strengths and develop a plan moving forward to be able to be successful. That can mean making course choices that are most relevant. Choosing experiences to build a portfolio. What are the skills you are going to need? How do you build a profile that will make you attractive to them? The pressure is for students at 16 or 17 to make choices that, frankly, people are not really ready to make. But they have to do it!

About the Author

Conrad Collaco is a CBC News producer for CBC Hamilton with extensive experience in online, television and radio news. Follow him on Twitter at @ConradCollaco, or email him at conrad.collaco@cbc.ca.

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