Public versus Private School Education

I’m pretty sure that’s not the philosophical question Rodin had in mind for his pondering statue, but it is a question many parents are faced with when deciding which type of education is best for their child’s future (and it is a recurring theme throughout this blog). Here is a comparative article providing you with some pointers to help you in your decision on whether or not to enrol your child in private school.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS:

PROS:

  • usually more cost effective, despite tax contributions
  • may provide adequate facilities and education quality
  • usually in close proximity to home location, less travel time

CONS

  • may not provide the standard of education desired
  • teachers may only possess base-level qualification
  • usually do not offer special programs or specialized teaching
  • facilities may be of poor quality
  • large classroom sizes
  • more bureaucratic red tape which can prevent effective discipline against bullying
  • usually inadequate support for special needs students
  • can lack resources compared to private schools
  • limiting traditional education models

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Schools and Teacher Turnovers

In Canada, teacher turnover rates mainly refer to the public school education system. This is when teachers leave their school after only a short period of employment, essentially resulting in a conveyor belt of new teachers arriving and then leaving schools. New, younger teachers are mainly responsible for the growing turnover rate in schools. Professor Rob Tierney from UBC’s Faculty of Education says this is because new teachers often “burnout” in their early years of teaching, being unaccustomed to the workload and hectic school environment. Newer teachers also seem to be unprepared at dealing with behavioural and discipline problems among students, especially teenagers who are more likely to challenge authority. Teacher turnover rates are even higher in rural areas where new educators are viewed as “outsiders” to the community.

According to 2004 figures from the Canadian Teachers’ Federationaround 30% of Canadian teachers leave their teaching job in their first five years of employment. Why is this an issue? Take the successful Finnish school system for example. In the majority of Finland’s schools, students are taught by the same educator for many successive years. That is because students benefit from developing a lasting and meaningful relationship with their teacher. This arrangement helps students feel more comfortable in the classroom, leads them to ask questions during lessons, and the teachers have experience with each of their pupil’s needs. With a high rate of Canadian teacher turnovers, public school students are unable to building a relationship with their educators and each new teacher must try to learn about each student’s needs and personalities within a limited timeframe. Students may also be more easily overlooked in class, putting them at risk for absenteeism and falling grades.

What helps teachers from leaving their position? In 2006 Cassandra Guarino, Professor of Education and Public Policy at UC Riverside, and her co-authors found in their review of the teacher attrition literature that “schools that provided mentoring and inductions programs had lower rates of turnover for new teachers. As well, schools that gave teachers greater autonomy and support from administration had better success in keeping their teachers”. This helps explain why IB World private schools in Ontario do not experience teacher turnovers (at least not to the degree of the public school system). Teachers at IB private schools already have years of teaching experience under their belt, and they have undergone additional training to become IB certified educators. This means they have the experience and training to succeed in a rigorous teaching environment. In conjunction with guaranteed small class sizes, our private school IB teachers are able to build meaningful relationships with their students, whose academic future they take to heart. Furthermore, at St. Jude’s Academy, our professional development program ensures our teachers have a great support network.

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Best Educational Apps for Learning

During summer vacation when kids typically have an open schedule without having to attend private school every day, parents usually witness a spike in their child’s screen time. For those inevitable summer days when your child doesn’t have camp or a soccer game scheduled, you can introduce some meaningful computer usage by recommending these great educational apps for your child to try out! Please note: I am not being sponsored to promote any of these apps.

1. DUOLINGO. 5/5 iTunes rating and Apple’s iPhone app of the year. Available in iOS and Android. Cost: free

This is a fantastic language-learning tool for your child to use. Duolingo makes it easy to learn a new language for beginners with its intuitive user interface and  game-like progress that makes it addictive to learn each new lesson. Duolingo provides written lessons and dictation, and categorizes each new word learned in a special vocabulary section for easy viewing. Duolingo does not provide boring grammar lessons, but rather depends entirely on user interaction; your child will learn a new language simply by translating hundreds of fun and relevant sentences. There are 19 languages to choose from, and your child can pick as many as they want to learn, from French to Swedish to Vietnamese and everything in between. This app can serve as an additional learning aid for your child during school, or as an affordable way to learn a new language which boosts cognitive functioning!

2. GOODREADS. Available in iOS and Android. Cost: Free

GoodReads is quickly becoming a popular app and website for bibliophiles of all ages. Parental supervision may be required as this is technically a social media site, but as with all internet usage parental supervision is recommended. GoodReads has become the best friend of book-lovers everywhere. It is a place to categorize, document, and rate all the books one has read, as well as utilize the site’s excellent recommendation software to find their next favourite book or author. You can read book reviews from fellow users or real librarians, keep up-to-date with new book releases from your favourite authors, and even track your annual reading progress with GoodReads’ highly popular yearly “Reading Challenge“. This is a great way to motivate students to read more, as you can compare your progress with friends in a spirit of friendly compeititon. I also like to use this site to find my next great read, because it is much easier to search for books than with the Mississauga Library Catalogue.

3. SKYVIEW. 4.5/5  iOS and Android. Cost: Free or $2.79 for the extended version.

This is Apple’s extremely popular astronomy app. If you are in the country, it acts as a guide for stargazing by providing a virtual realty overlay that labels the stars in real time. Simply open the app, calibrate the compass, and point your phone or tablet up at the night sky. If you live in the city, have your child do the same, only the app will project the location of the stars on the screen so that as you are looking through your phone’s screen, you can see the location of all the stars in the sky even though you can’t see them with the naked eye due to light pollution. Tap on a star or planet, and a pop-up provides detailed information about the planetary body you selected! This is a great learning app that also works during the day to show you where the moon and stars are on the other side of the Earth!

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Embracing Wrong Answers

“Embracing wrong answers”… it seems completely at odds with our intuition, no? Isn’t school supposed to be about teaching children the right answers? Well, not anymore. More and more educators are realizing the importance and benefits of spending time learning about wrong answers to a lesson’s content. Take a look at the pointers below:

  1. Embracing wrong answers increases students’ confidence and classroom participation. When teachers take the initiative and teach students about the wrong answers, it prevents the learning experience from originating with a student answering a question incorrectly. Instead of exploiting a student’s mistake, the opportunity to learn a valuable lesson needs to be redirected and instead originate from the teacher. Now, this isn’t just some pre-emptive strategy to prevent students from saying wrong answers out loud. Rather, it makes these occasions seem less glaring and prevents students from being afraid to answer questions in class
  2. It is conducive to three-dimensional learning. You are analyzing all sides of the same problem, tackling it from multiple perspectives and seeing the same issue in a different light. It forces you to ask questions instead of passively taking the correct answer for granted.
  3. It reinforces the logic behind why the correct answer really is the correct answer.

Private Schools: Social and Emotional Learning

In March 2016, the World Economic Forum (WEF) produced a detailed report on the important of social and emotional learning (SEL) for twenty-first-century students, which can be read in full here: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_New_Vision_for_Education.pdf

The WEF argues that “social and emotional proficiency will equip students to succeed in the swiftly evolving digital economy”. The report also cites a study that maintains “65% of children entering grade school will ultimately work in jobs that don’t exist today”, which places major importance on developing skillsets that allow children to be adaptable, creative, and excellent interpersonal communicators.

I find this to be directly in line with the philosophy of the “whole child” promoted by certified IB schools like St. Jude’s Academy. It represents the holistic teaching method we apply, which involves supporting group work and collaboration in the classroom, as well as team work during extracurricular activities. We recognize the importance of supporting all aspects of our students’ development, all to the benefit of academic excellence and future personal success.

As cited by the WEF, in the 1960s the Perry Preschool Study embarked on an education study which followed its child participants until the age of 40. The experiment involved a control group of students taught using traditional methods, compared to one other group where the children were taught using an SEL-based curriculum. At the end of the study, they discovered that the students who had been educated by the curriculum that encouraged the development of SEL skills reported higher income earnings than their counterparts and were less likely to have been involved in criminal activities [source: HighScope, “Lifetime Effects: The HighScope Perry Preschool Study Through Age 40”, 2005, http://www.highscope.org/content.asp?contentid=219 ] As you can see, promoting SEL skills in the classroom, our “whole child” holistic teaching approach, has beneficial results not just limited to academic and workplace success; encouraging a child’s social and emotional development also leads to the creation of responsible and civic-minded citizens.

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About the MYP from IB

The International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Program (MYP) is for students aged 11 to 16. The MYP builds on the knowledge and skills imparted in the Primary Years Program (PYP) and prepares students for the rigors of the Diploma Program (DP). But the MYP is not merely a stepping stone between the two. Studies show that MYP students routinely outscore non-MYP students on the IB diploma, as well as surpassing non-IB students on critical academic skills. While schools looking to acquire IB certifications have the option to choose merely one of the four IB programs, enrolling your child in a school that offers all three of the main IB World school programs is highly advisable. Although technically independent, each program tier builds on the knowledge and skills acquired throughout all the years of an IB World education.

The MYP in particular has demonstrated its capacity for instilling in students important non-academic qualities, like global awareness and civic-mindedness. MYP students complete one long-term project, the significance of which resides in the fact that they develop university-style skills: academic research, proposal writing, and individual thinking. With little teacher interference, students develop their own topic and are responsible for not just knowing their subject, but also knowing what they need to know to complete the assignment. Developing the cognizance to identify what they do not know is an important academic competence for developing research skills.

So there you have it! I hope you understand a little more about the MYP and about what I do 🙂 I love being the MYP Coordinator at my school, because I love witnessing the critical transition the students make in their learning and personal growth. Please let me know in the comments: what would your project proposal be about for your long-term project?

The No Homework Movement

In 2012 French president François Hollande vowed to abolish homework as part of his education reforms. Many individual high schools in Germany and the United States are also experimenting with a ban on homework. And St. Jude’s Academy already has a “No Homework” policy in effect. This means that during class after the lesson, students are assigned follow-up questions to reinforce the understanding and learning of the concepts covered in class, which also allows teachers to evaluate which students require additional assistance. Students will not be assigned additional homework unless they did not use their time effectively during class.

So why is the international “No Homework” movement gaining momentum? Because administrators and educators are finally listening to science: studies frequently reveal that there are no academic benefits from homework for children. In fact, assigning homework can actually have negative implications. At best, homework wastes time for the high-achieving student who already understands the concepts being taught in class and is merely being assigned an additional redundant workload. At the worst, it frustrates and demoralizes struggling students who are condemned to spend hours alone at home fighting their way through problems they cannot receive assistance on until the next time they see their teacher. Homework is not productive, nor is it conducive to meaningful learning. Homework has been cited as an “energy zapper”, making children resentful towards learning, demoralized about their progress, and generally more stressed out. It can also burden parents, who are suddenly expected to take on the role of teacher when their children present them with an insurmountable set of math problems.

Abolishing homework frees up more time for children to de-stress and to engage in other noteworthy pursuits, like extracurriculars and sports outside of school. Reducing the length of a lesson and increasing time for in-class work provides students with the opportunity to ask their teachers instead of their parents or paid tutors for help, and effectively reinforces the learning of new concepts.

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