Low-income secondary students in Ontario likelier to be in applied courses

April 30, 2013

Over the past decade, Ontario has had great success in boosting secondary school graduation rates and sending more graduates on to PSE or apprenticeships. But some students still do not share equally in that educational success, and many of them are taking applied courses in Grades 9 and 10, according to a new report from People for Education. Since 1999, Ontario has revised the high school curriculum and today most students take academic or applied courses in Grades 9 and 10 for required credits such as English, math, and science. In theory, the same material is to be covered, with the academic being more theoretical while the applied is more hands-on. The report observes that students in applied courses have a reduced chance of graduating from secondary school and that schools with a large proportion of students taking applied mathematics in Grade 9 have lower average family incomes and lower levels of parental education. Some students take applied courses because they believe they are easier. But the report notes that data show that, ironically, students in applied courses are less likely to be successful. For example, a 2012 report from the Toronto District School Board showed that students in applied courses in Grade 9 were 29% less likely to graduate within 4 or 5 years and half as likely to pursue PSE. People for Education's executive director says the findings show that "it is time to look more closely at who is choosing applied courses, why they are being chosen, what advice parents and students are receiving in Grade 8 when the choices must be made" and whether the academic/applied system automatically handicaps already vulnerable students. People for Education News | Toronto Star | Report