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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Find a “Healthy” Private School

Similar to my previous post on child nutrition, today I am composing a checklist of useful questions to ask your prospective Mississauga private schools in order to determine which school is best for the “health” of your child.

Students will spend at least 16,000 hours of their childhood—up until the age of majority—in school. Schools are therefore crucial centers of activity to promote good health and nutrition habits for their students. Regardless of the level of care children receive from home, because students spend so much time at schools, these institutions of education must recognize the significant role they play in students’ lives and act accordingly as good role models for health and nutrition. As of 2011, Canada ranks 21st out of 28 countries for child well-being and 27th out of 28 countries for childhood obesity. European kids also walk an average of 2,400 more steps per day than Canadian children.

While searching for a private school with an excellent academic reputation and top quality educators will be your primary concern, it is also important to regard Mississauga private schools that promote the well-being of their students. As is well known, a student’s academic performance is directly affected by their mental and physical health. So here are some questions I recommend parents consider during their private school search:

  1. What organized physical activities are arranged for students, both during and after school?
  2. Do students have access to a range of athletic equipment during recess or lunch break?
  3. What extracurricular programs are hosted by the private school for kids to enrol in?
  4. What is the private school’s attitude towards extracurricular and student participation?
  5. Does the private school have a cafeteria? If so, what types of food are made available to purchase?
  6. Does the school work with community partners to promote activity? For example, St. Jude’s Academy recognizes the guidelines of ParticipACTION to encourage student wellness, as well as the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines.

These are only a few questions you may want to ask, but I hope they will help parents considering which private school to enrol their children in! 🙂

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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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If You’re Reading This, Stand up!

“Sitting is the new smoking”. Each year, smoking kills around 39,100 Canadians. On average, people who smoke lose 9 years off of their life expectancy, and lung cancer from smoking accounts for 27% of all cancer deaths in Canada (and that’s without getting into the added phenomena of second- and third-hand smoke). So to say that sitting is the new smoking is a momentous remark indeed.

And yet it is true. Our normalized sedentary lifestyle of the twenty-first century is plaguing society with familiar ills. People who sit for more than just 4 hours a day are at an increased risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease; they have a 125% increased risk of events associated with cardiovascular disease and a  nearly 50% increased risk of death from any cause. And the scary part? These increased risks exist regardless of how much a person exercises during the rest of the week.

But the analogy between sitting and smoking was not just created by Dr. James Levine to express the similar dire health effects of prolonged sitting. It was also coined to allude to the widespread social acceptance and practice of this new health scare, similar to the social attitudes towards smoking and its normality in the early twentieth century. A sedentary lifestyle is our norm. Students sit for around 5 hours of the school day, employees sit for 8 hours of the work day, and both children and adults retire to the comforts of their home to sit for even more hours on the couch or at the dinner table. If someone is getting up constantly at the office to walk around and stretch, eyebrows will be raised. Students are expected to sit still for entire lesson plans.

The issue isn’t just the total number of hours we sit for, but also the number of uninterrupted hours. You are at an even greater risk of the aforementioned diseases if you do not get up and walk around every once and a while. Doctors and clinical researchers recommend people walk around after 20-minute intervals of sitting. This is also beneficial for eye health as well, as it relieves the strain of constant screen time. The goal is to reduce sedentary behaviour overall, as well as to punctuate long periods of sitting with small breaks of standing.

By now you may be wondering how this is relevant to my education news blog. Well, besides from wanting to generate awareness about this social and health issue, I am also proud to say that St. Jude’s Academy cherishes our students’ health. We actually let our students get up and move around in class! And we serve the interests of kinesthetic learners because we understand how difficult it is to shackle children to desks and expect them to demonstrate the same levels of concentration and attentiveness. That is one aspect of traditional learning that is proving to be a detriment to children’s health.

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Good Teachers Critical for Student Success

The role of a teacher in determining an institution’s academy quality, a student’s personal drive, or a classroom’s collective success is unequivocal. Teachers are arguably the most important factor in shaping a student’s education and school experience.

One study that has been instrumental in proving the correlation between teacher effectiveness and student achievement was conducted by Dr. William Sanders, an American statistician,  who is known for developing the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS). He and his colleagues studied a group of teachers and students over the course of many years and looked at what happened to students whose teachers produced high achievement results versus those whose teachers produced low achievement results. His study revealed that when children in the third grade were assigned to different high-performing teachers for three consecutive years, they scored on average in the 96th percentile on Tennessee’s statewide mathematics assessment at the end of grade five. When the children from the other group with comparable achievement histories were placed with three low-performing teachers in a row, their average score on the same mathematics assessment was in the 44th percentile. Because the study’s children had been assessed beforehand to have comparable skills and intelligence, this led Sanders and his research team to conclude that the identifying variable was the different quality of the teachers. It is hard to argue with a massive 52-point differential!

So what does this have to do with St. Jude’s Academy? Aside from recognizing the importance effective teaching has on our students’ success, St. Jude’s requires all of our teachers to undergo additional professional certification because we are an IB World school. Our educators must become IB certified in order to teach, and this works to ensure that students will receive a high level of effective and attentive teaching. The qualities of effective teachers include:

  • undergoing continuous professional development
  • possessing additional certification
  • holding high expectations for themselves and their students
  • understanding students’ struggles and knowing how to reiterate difficult concepts in a meaningful way
  • being passionate about their lesson material
  • demonstrating genuine concern, interest, and personal investment in their students’ academic success

I leave you with this powerful quote:

“That’s what education should be,” I said, “the art of orientation. Educators should devise the simplest and most effective methods of turning minds around. It shouldn’t be the art of implanting sight in the organ, but should proceed on the understanding that the organ already has the capacity, but is improperly aligned and isn’t facing the right way.” —Plato, The Republic

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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?

Benefits of Non-Semestered Classes

In Ontario public schools since 1976, semestering has reigned supreme. It is when the school year is split into two semesters, and students attend four courses in the fall season, each lasting 75 minutes, which ends with a week of exams before the next four courses begin sometime around February in the spring of the new year. This status quo is now the subject of debate and is being studied by OISE researchers to see whether or not public schools should make the switch to non-semestered classes. A school with a non-semestered timetable has students enrolled in all eight classes all year around with shorter class times and only one exam season at the end of the school year in June.

But why are some researchers recommending a standardized switch for all Ontario public schools to non-semestered classes? The biggest reason: continuity. Let’s imagine a scenario. Abigail is enrolled at a public school with semestering. In the fall in grade 9 she has math class for the next four months until she takes four new classes with new teachers in February of the next year. But then Abigail enters grade 10 in September, and this time she has math in her second semester in the spring thanks to her randomly assigned timetable. Because she last had math class in the fall of last year, in her first semester of grade 9, she will be entering grade 10 math without having taken the subject for one year! This will make it much harder for her to learn new material that builds on the foundation of last grade’s curriculum (as opposed to another student who had math in grade 9 semester two and then in grade 10 semester one. This student only has a learning gap of two months, from summer vacation).

Another issue with semestering is how it affects students involved in extracurriculars and sports. When students have to miss school every week for sports commitments and away games, they often miss the same class every time because their schedule only has four subjects held on every day. Missing school is much more manageable with non-semestered classes because the greater variety and number of classes results in a mixture of subjects being missed. This makes it much easier for students to catch up.

Another benefit of non-semestering is how it affects students’ attention spans. With semestering, having only four very long classes each school day does not promote active learning. With shorter classes and more variety of subjects, non-semestering is conducive to attentive learning by students. Non-semestering also encourages multi-tasking and organizational skills because students are responsible for eight classes instead of four. This also better prepares children for the rigors of university life, where students must take at least 5 courses per academic year. Semestered students therefore have an added challenge when acclimatizing to university life because they only have experience taking four courses at one time, or even three if they took a spare in grade 12.

So there you have it, all the benefits and reasons why it is a good idea to support the movement towards non-semestering. That’s why I am proud to say that where I work, at St. Jude’s Academy, non-semestered classes are offered to help our students reach their ultimate learning potential.