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Ministry of Education plans changes to high schools after survey finds graduates not prepared for life after Grade 12

There are more changes ahead for Whistler’s high school. The school is currently coping with some larger classes, the implementation of the new School Planning Councils, and budget restraints.

There are more changes ahead for Whistler’s high school.

The school is currently coping with some larger classes, the implementation of the new School Planning Councils, and budget restraints.

Now it must work toward implementing changes to its graduation program.

"There are many areas in which we can continue to improve," said Principal Ken Davies.

"I view this as a healthy process to look at what we are doing and what we need to do to prepare our young people for their futures.

"We need to pay particular attention to the employment section and ask them point bank what are the skills they are looking for and are we doing this and if we are not preparing the kids then what do we have to do to do it."

Davies also feels more needs to be done to ensure grad students who go on to post-secondary education have the skills to fit in and do well.

Some students really suffer in a college or university setting where the ability to learn independently is key.

"There is no one calling home to make sure they are following their homework program," said Davies.

The changes are being sought by the Ministry of Education following a survey of high school graduates.

The survey found that only half of graduates felt the B.C. education system prepared then for life after Grade 12.

"We must do more to make education relevant," said Education Minister Christy Clark.

"We need to find better ways to give today’s students the knowledge and skills they need so they can move on to both post-secondary education and the job market."

More than 900 high school graduates took part in the phone survey. Only 38 per cent were satisfied that their schools had given them the necessary work skills for employment. And just 63 per cent were satisfied or very satisfied with how their school had prepared them academically.

The survey also found that 5.6 per cent fewer students were choosing work over post-secondary education in their first year out of school.

The ministry will continue consultations on the findings until January.

A few of the proposed changes include:

• Allowing locally developed courses to count towards graduation. For example secondary wood manufacturing might be part of Prince George’s high school curriculum.

• School districts may be required to make all three math courses – Principals of Mathematics 11, Applications of Mathematics 11 and Essentials of Mathematics 11 – available so that students can take the one that suits their needs and goals.

• Improving student planning by replacing career and personal planning 10-12 with a new mandatory Grade 10 education and career planning course.

• Expanding the graduation program from two years to three by adding Grade 10 so students would have greater opportunity to plan for their futures.

Davies said Whistler Secondary is currently undertaking its own survey of previous graduates, students, staff and others in the community as it strives to meet the needs and goals of those it serves.

The survey will also look at the use of the quarter system.

"So by the end of the year we should have a some idea of how we are doing," said Davies.

He is also gearing up to work with parents and a teacher representative on the new School Panning Council.

The first Parent Advisory Council meeting will be on Wednesday, Sept. 25 at 7 p.m. in the library and it’s likely the council will be seeking parents to volunteer for the three positions available on the SPC.

Davies is cautiously optimistic about the introduction of the SPC.

"On the one hand I think it has merit because it will allow more inclusion," said Davies.

"But what needs to be fleshed out are the mechanics of how it works."

Davies doesn’t want to see personal agendas stand in the way of what is best for all students and the school.

One great thing for the school will be the new addition. Plans are moving along swiftly and if all goes well, said Davies, the whole project could be ready for September 2004.

The expansion includes more classroom space, a science lab, computer room, and a grand new entrance and fine arts area.

It will bring an end to kids in portables.

This year there are 350 students at Whistler Secondary, that’s up about 20 from last year.

And the school is hosting nine overseas students. They come from Brazil, Japan, Germany and a host of other nations. This is the highest number of foreign students the school has ever had.

"They bring a different perspective of the world to the school," said Davies.

"Through their interactions they bring social components from their culture and they also bring in a level of academic motivation which mirrors what we are trying to achieve in the school."