School District 47’s high school graduation rate has risen steadily over the past four consecutive years to now meet the provincial average of approximately 80 per cent.
Graduation rates for first nations students have also increased, but are still low at about 50 per cent.
A big reason for the increase has been in the district’s ability to work with the community to create hands-on learning opportunities like the district’s extensive trades program, which has averaged 60 grade 12 students per year for the past five years. It is estimated that 98 per cent of these students successfully complete their trades certification and Dogwood graduation.
Still, more than one fifth of students are dropping out. Across the province, that’s a substantial and worrying number.
BC’s ministry of education has engaged in something of a revolution, looking to fix the problem.
The public education system has been redesigned with a focus on personalized, hands-on learning, making it easier for students to start preparing for “in demand” careers while at high school.
The plan will also better recognize learning that takes place outside of the classroom while students are engaged in arts, sports, science and leadership programs.
That is good news for programs such as the district’s Outdoor and Ecological Learning department.
This spring the government announced its BC Skills and Jobs plan changing graduation requirements for grades 10 to 12 students, opening more spots for high school students in apprenticeship training programs and forcing universities to put more focus on science and engineering programs than humanities.
While this may be the focus for the province, is it the focus for small communities like Powell River? At the recent Future is Now forum, it became clear the diversity of education available through the school district embraces the wider community. Youth can travel beyond books and witness how local actions impact further afield, internationally and even globally.
At the same forum, invited guest Matt Hern questioned today’s schooling and asked how youth gain the opportunity to direct their own lives and influence change before graduating school?
Learning that takes place outside the classroom for some students can be just as valuable, if not more so, as learning inside the classroom.