Sacca: Why The Ontario Education System Doesn’t Fit The Needs Of All Students

By Gracie Sacca, St Marks High School And R.I.S.E Academy Student

The Ontario education system does not benefit all students. The current system is made to cater to only one specific learning style, this type of learner are those who can function early in the morning, absorb a lot of information in a short amount of time, can write tests and are compliant. Throughout this short essay, these ideas will be further explained and research will be used to support the arguments at hand. 

Most Ontario high schools start at 8:00 am in the morning, therefore students must be awake as early as 7:00 am.  These early start times do not support adolescents’ natural sleep patterns which affect their social and emotional well being. Our current education system expects adolescents to want to learn early in the morning.

According to a study done by the University of Washington on later start times in high schools, ‘“Research to date has shown that the circadian rhythms of adolescents are simply fundamentally different from those of adults and children,” said lead author Gideon Dunster, a UW doctoral student in biology. “To ask a teen to be up and alert at 7:30 a.m. is like asking an adult to be active and alert at 5:30 a.m.,” said  Horacio de la Iglesia, a UW professor of biology.

Gracie Sacca is a student of St Marks High School in Manotick and R.I.S.E Academy. (Supplied)

This is just once again proving that waking kids up at an early time is setting them up for failure academically, socially, and emotionally. Adolescents go to sleep at later times not because they are trying to affect their sleep schedules but because it’s biological and they can’t control it. However, the school systems early start times disrupt adolescents’ natural sleep pattern.

“This has severe consequences for health and well-being, because disrupted circadian rhythms can adversely affect digestion, heart rate, body temperature, immune system function, attention span and mental health.” Again this study shows that early start times for adolescents are not beneficial. Many teachers in the current system punish their students and even treat them differently by holding them to a lower standard.

According to Dr.Cindy Gellner from the University of Utah, “They are getting late to school and then they are getting notices about being in truancy because they are tardy all the time. This is not entirely their fault. Studies show that adolescents who don’t get enough sleep often suffer from physical and mental health problems and a decline in academic performance.”

This is evidence that some adolescents legitimately are unable to attend class on time due to lack of sleep and should not be looked down upon as this affects their mental health. Through looking at two different studies on sleep and school start times it is evident that an 8 am high school start time will affect a students success in the inability to be alert so early in the morning, their different circadian rhythm and punishment for tardiness.

Another reason the Ontario education system does not benefit all students is because the most frequently used form of assessments are tests that hold a lot of weight towards final marks. Tests do not reflect on how smart or not smart a person is, they also do not cater to all learning styles, and they force students to compete against each other.

According to an article by Zachary Jason from Harved Ed Magazine, “There are many factors that can impact a student’s test score negatively, including stress, lack of language skills, and lack of special needs accommodations.”.

Most Ontario students have to write multiple tests a week, and have to write an exam at the end of the semester in each class that has a big impact on final marks. When a student has to write this many tests it doesn’t always allow them to show how smart they really are. In elementary school there are all different kinds of learning, no specific style is forced upon you. When you get to high school you have to learn the way the system wants you to or you’ll fail.

Jason also writes: “The transition from the tactile and creative to the cerebral and regimented. Mehta calls it the switch from “child-centered learning to subject-centered learning. In third grade I cut with scissors, smeared glue sticks, and doodled with scented magic markers. By 12th grade I was plugging in formulas on a TI-83 and writing the answers on fill-in-the-blank worksheets.”

This shows how what you learn in high school lacks creativity and is not related to what you do in the real world.

Our current system in Ontario has turned learning into a competition and has put students up against each other by creating a hierarchy from A to F.

According to an article called ‘What are the Most Common Arguments as to Why School is a Waste of Time’ published by University of the People, “It is also argued that tests stress students out for no good reason, and that it defeats the purpose of learning and really enjoying the process. Testing students in school takes away from the genuine pleasure of learning for ourselves, and makes it into one big race.”

According to experts, it is clear that tests do not reflect on how smart or not smart a person is, they also do not cater to all learning styles, and they force students to compete against each other, which in turn does not benefit students in our current system.

The concluding reason as to why the Ontario Education System does not benefit all students is because it doesn’t teach us basic life skills. In school, students are not taught how to manage their personal finances, how to prepare for the future and are given a false reality as to how they will be expected to spend their money. In high school many students start getting jobs. An important part of having a job is knowing how to manage money. 

Savannah Cooks from Indian Trail High School and Academy says: “About 25 per cent of 13-18-year-old high school students may not have the skills to manage basic personal finances,” according to a 2013 study by EverFi, Inc., a technology company focusing on educating children.

This is a necessity for youth as they enter the real world. There’s more to life after high school than just post secondary that we aren’t really educated on in high school. According to the article from the University of Michigan-Dearborn, “Given these new realities, Alcodray argues high schools can’t afford to be focused exclusively on college prep; rather, they should be preparing students for “what next.”

And what’s next should be defined in terms of the spectrum of real opportunities that’s likely to greet them post-graduation day.

We need to be taught the realities of buying a house, paying off a credit card and paying taxes. Our current education system also fails to teach us how we will be expected to spend our money in the future. According to an article written by U of A, “Often, we get so wrapped up in preparing our youth for college or some kind of technical training that we forget about basic skills that they will need such as balancing their checkbook, obtaining things like housing, insurance, and utilities when they do get income.” This research shows how the education system does not teach students basic life skills such as managing personal finances, preparing for the future or how we will be expected to spend our money.

Overall, the Ontario education system has failed students. It is made to cater to only one specific learning style, this type of learner are those who can function early in the morning, absorb a lot of information in a short amount of time, can write tests and are compliant. In order for students to feel adequately prepared for the future, a reevaluation of courses is needed so that the curriculum is better fit to all learning styles, teaches basic life skills and enables for flexibility.

Gracie Sacca is a grade 12 student at St.Mark high school and R.IS.E Academy. In her free time she likes to play hockey and golf. Next year she will be attending Stonehill College on a hockey scholarship and taking Sports Management. In her grade 12 English class she was asked to write about something that she is passionate about therefore she took the opportunity to write about the need for change in education.