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Schools not preparing students for 'success in this complex world,' report finds

Ontario schools are struggling to prepare students for the future by failing to implement policies on career and life planning, a new report by People for Education says.

Ontario needs more counsellors to help students cope with future demands, People for Education says

Some guidance counsellors for Grades 7 and 8 deal with as many as 385 students. (CBC)

Ontario schools are struggling to prepare students for the future by failing to implement policies on career and life planning, a new report by People for Education say.

The study, "Roadmaps and roadblocks," argues that groundwork for adulthood should begin in kindergarten, not just in high school, as is most often the case.

"We are facing a complex world, we understand that kids are going to have many different jobs rather than going in with the idea that 'I'm going to work my way through [an organization],'" said Annie Kidder, the executive director of People for Education. 

"There's also more agreement that success in this complex world is going to take a broad set of competencies and skills."

More than 1,250 Ontario elementary and secondary schools, both Catholic and public, were part of a survey conducted by People for Education  — an independent organization that works to advance education through research and public engagement.

One of the findings from the report released Tuesday, is that schools are having trouble following Ontario's Creating Pathways to Success policy, while other provinces are doing a better job at tackling their equivalent.  

The Creating Pathways to Success policy has programs and teaching methods designed to help children navigate their future from kindergarten all the way through high school. It focuses on four pillars — from getting to know yourself to creating a plan to achieve your goals.

Kidder says schools have a hard time implementing the policy because of a lack of resources, supports or time.

"Every kid in high school, for example, is supposed to have an individual pathways plan, but only 57 per cent of high schools say that all of their kids have them," said Kidder.

More counsellors needed 

The study also points out that "only 23 per cent of elementary schools have guidance counsellors." 

While that's more than last year's findings of 14 per cent, the study says "these supports are mostly unavailable for students making the transition into high school." In addition, some guidance counsellors for Grades 7 and 8 deal with as many as 385 students. 

Kidder says hiring more counsellors would help students figure out "who they are and what they're good at."

Annie Kidder, the executive director of People for Education, says Ontario is falling behind other provinces when it comes to preparing students for the future. (Muriel Draaisma/CBC)

John Driscoll, president of Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association, agrees. He says it's never too early to begin guidance counselling.

Students face more career choices than before 

"It's meeting the young people and students where they're at," he said.

"It's not necessarily talking about what career choices they're going to make in primary. Enabling them to understand and look into the future and discover themselves is what's important."  

The number of guidance counsellors per school varies based on location. In the Greater Toronto Area, 36 per cent of elementary schools had guidance counsellors while in Northern Ontario, only 11 per cent did.  

Driscoll says that sometimes career guidance can take a back seat when counsellors are dealing with the mental health issues of students, administrative work or they have too many students to care for.

The study also looked at applied versus academic courses and the information parents and students have when choosing the streams. It found that those in applied courses are less likely to graduate from high school than those in the academic stream. 

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