Sending our kids the wrong message?

The Ontario Ministry of Education requests a lot of data from schools and school boards every year, one of which being something called a Destination Report. In this report the destinations, where the students went after graduating from High School, are recorded and broken down by both the time it took to graduate (4, 4 1/2, 5 years etc) and where they actually went (university, college or further education, apprenticeship, or employment). It also records the number of students who went to university as well as how many applied. It is judging the success of the student by where they went after school.

University fees increase every year as do other related costs. For the 2003 / 2004 year, a four year program cost approximately $58,000. While it is true that those who gain a university degree do get higher paid jobs, do it really matter when they are already nearly $60,000 in debt?

If you were to attend Western University this year, and were to stay in residence, you would be paying, for bed and board, a minimum of $9,500 a year, although this does give you a place to sleep and three meals a day for 8 months. For a four year course, if the rate didn’t increase, that is $38,000 paid in residency along. Along with the four year program you are taking, you are very nearly in 6 figures for your education. Hope you can find a job straight after university otherwise you will struggle to pay that back working at McDonalds!


There is a growing train of thought that suggests that the education model has become outdated. While decades ago, the education system produced the workers required for the work environment of the day, things have changed. For example, a rapidly growing sector of business is web-based commerce, and while the more education is always good, for those who are growing up with the internet in their lives, the knowledge and skills are already attained without spending time in a classroom.

Teacher even believe that this education model has become outdated, even within schools. The focus of courses are always on the academics of English, Mathematics and Science, all excellent subjects but all mandatory. Optional courses, such as the Arts, Tech and Physical Education are pushed into the shadows, not made compulsory. Schools no longer prepare students for life, they simply aim to prepare students for further education.

Schools should be teaching students a good work ethic, not just show up but work your best, be it sweeping the floors or building a database. School is a great place to learn the correct study skills and how to properly research data and information. Tech, Phys Ed and Foods should all be compulsory. Students should leave school with the ability to not only budget a household but also to shop for food and then be able to cook the food as well.

Basic skills, such as how to change a light bulb, or a light fitting, change a tire, fix a broken flush in a toilet, or even change a washer in a tap, should be ingrained in students before they reach 18. The ability to read instructions properly will benefit them greatly, especially after visiting Ikea!

Perhaps it is time for parents to understand that while their children attending university can be seen as a success of education, it isn’t the only pathway open to them, and it may not even be the best one.

Sir Ken Robinson, an international advisor on education, has made a few impassioned talks at TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talks. Below are a couple of the talks.

Mike Rowe, the presenter, made a speech to the American congress on the same subject. Video below.

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