Tag Archives: Ontario

“Global Citizenship” and its Importance

For the few Ontario private schools that are certified International Baccalaureate World schools, one of their key identifying attributes is promoting and instilling the concept of “global citizenship” in their students for the benefit of the world and millennials themselves. But what exactly does it mean to be a global citizen and why has it become such an important part of the International Baccalaureate (IB)? I have often mentioned this concept, but today I am dedicating this post to its definition.

Fostering global citizenship is the third priority of the UN Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative (GEFI). Their bona fide treatise on global citizenship has been reproduced in part here for your convenience:

“The world faces global challenges, which require global solutions. These interconnected global challenges call for far-reaching changes in how we think and act for the dignity of fellow human beings.

It is not enough for education to produce individuals who can read, write and count.

Education must be transformative and bring shared values to life. It must cultivate an active care for the world and for those with whom we share it. Education must also be relevant in answering the big questions of the day.

Education must fully assume its central role in helping people to forge more just, peaceful, tolerant and inclusive societies. It must give people the understanding, skills and values they need to cooperate in resolving the interconnected challenges of the 21st century.”

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New Skills for a New World

Private schools excel at providing the tools that allow students to cultivate twenty-first skills necessary for future success in the changing global job market. Please take a look at the two info graphics below. With our multidisciplinary approach as well as our inquiry– and content– based learning models, students at St. Jude’s Academy are provided with an advanced education imparting the most sought-after career skills, which are listed in Table 1. From complex problem solving to cognitive flexibility, our students graduate prepared for the Digital Age’s New World with a toolbox of skills that the traditional learning curriculum employed within Ontario’s public school system often does not provide. 

To cite the World Economic Forum (WEF): “work today is increasingly collaborative and focused on solving complex problems in creative ways. Work is also more trans-disciplinary than before: just look at how Google hired psychologists to help coders design fonts, and anthropologists to better understand how their users think and behave”. With an ever-changing job market and  an increased value placed on  creativity, students will capitalize from the innumerable benefits of a private school that helps them to be flexible, ingenious, and that also understands the challenges of the twenty-first century.  These highly desirable skills listed by the WEF are not so easily acquired: they demand rich, human interactions and regular practice. To become complex thinkers, manage relationships, and be emotionally intelligent, students need an institution to provide them with a teaching philosophy (like the whole child approach and SEL) committed to augmenting their education experience.

work blog list

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Why You Should Consider an IB School

St. Jude’s Academy (SJA) is one of the only full IB World Schools in the Peel Region in Mississauga. SJA offers the official IB World PYP, MYP, and DP programs, which represent a continuation of learning excellence from Junior Kindergarten to grade 12. These inquiry-based programs are internationally recognized and revered as one of the highest standards of teaching. The specially certified IB teaching staff encourages and supports children to become critical thinkers and lifelong learners through these series of interconnected, academically rigorous programs. Teachers provide stimulating learning experiences focused on the strengths and needs of individuals in order to help all students reach their full potential.

As an IB World school, SJA offers an international standardized education. I recognize that I have mentioned the value of a standardized education here on my blog before, but it is difficult for me to overemphasize its benefits! The Ontario education system, both private and public, does not offer the same level of standardized education as IB World schools which follow the highly successful Geneva model that was established in 1968. An IB DP diploma is automatically recognized by many prominent international universities  as a reputable high school degree representing the advanced education received. But besides carrying more weight for post-graduate success, a student receiving an IB World education will develop invaluable lifelong skills to become a world citizen of the twenty-first century. They are imbued with a sense of drive, purpose, and unlimited possibility for their role on the world stage. IB World students do not just received an excellent education… they become excited about their education! With the rise of chronic student absenteeism and learning apathy, inspiring students to take an interest in their education is no mean success, and motivates them to perform to the best of their ability. .

The same way it is so important for our global economy to have a standardized system of weights and measures and currencies, it is equally important to have a standardized education!

To read more, please check out my previous post on this topic.

Private Schools: A Solution to Absenteeism?

In the United States of America, 1 in 8 high school students are a chronic absentee. For a different perspective on this same issue, we could also say that 62,000 children miss class every day of the school year, either for legitimate reasons or because they are cutting class. Unfortunately there are no existing statistics relating to Canada specifically, but generally speaking our country also suffers from some level of chronic absenteeism as well. This is characterized as when a student misses 10% or one full calendar month of their school year for the purposes of simply skipping school. A student may skip school for a number of reasons, such as social anxiety, avoiding a bully, or due to bad habits with an aversion to learning and authority.

Once a student becomes an absentee, their future success immediately becomes at risk. They are more likely to fall behind in their classes, unable to catch up, and often become high school dropouts. The American Department of Education reports that absenteeism has even been tied to poverty, poor health, and criminal records later in life. Statistics Canada also reports that a student’s academic performance in high school is almost a perfect indicator for predicting exactly how they will perform at university, thus leading to their conclusion that the formation of good study habits in high school provides the bedrock for future habits and behaviour at university. The contrapositive of this fact, then, is that students skipping school will probably not fare well in university or at their jobs if they cannot kick this dangerous habit immediately. Attendance is a key factor in academic success.

There a few ways private schools can help overcome this complex issue. As Ms. Nelson mentions in her post, private schools deter bullying by having the freedom and authority to deal with bullies more stringently and effectively than public schools can with their red tape. The small classroom sizes at private schools also work to bolster teacher supervision, which keeps bullies in check, but also allows educators to be more aware of students missing from class. Reducing teacher oversight prevents students from falling between the cracks of the school system and turning into chronic absentees, which is more likely to happen in crowded public schools. At St. Jude’s Academy, the academic success and welfare of each and every student becomes our personal goal; and as an IB World school we impart a love of learning in our students by doing everything we can to help them achieve their aspirations for the future.

But what are your thoughts? What do you think the education system needs to do in order to stop more children from missing school so much?

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Why Do Parents Choose Private Schools?

As I mentioned in my popular Finland School post, there are no private schools in Finland. Miksi? Why? Because the country is so committed to national public education there is no need for private schools which cannot offer a better quality of schooling than what already exists. Ontario is not so fortunate. The proliferation of private schools in our province indicates that the public school education system—for a variety of reasons which I will not go into—is not able to deliver the quality of education parents want to provide for their children. And do not be misled by the rampant myth that only the elite take advantage of enrolling their kids: numerous surveys reveal that parents from all income, occupational, and educational groups send their children to private schools.

That is because Ontario parents are becoming disillusioned with our public school education system, especially after the massive teachers’ strike in 2015 which disrupted countless classrooms, cancelled extracurricular activities, and jeopardized students’ university applications when assignments ceased to be marked. Private school families will never have to worry about the threat of labour strife because of the nature of the institution and the private subsidization of teachers’ wages. In return, families also benefit from the following characteristics they report as having influenced their decision to make the switch to private school:

  • a safe environment for their children
  • dedicated teachers with additional certification (for IB World schools)
  • an emphasis on academic quality
  • a commitment to student success: no student left behind (only 85.5% of Ontario students graduated high school in 2015, a rate which has increased but according to  The Toronto Star only because we are devaluing the OSSD. An IB Diploma  can never be devalued)
  • no bureaucratic red tape interfering with innovation and lesson plans
  • private schools educate the “whole child” and develop student character

All of this helps to explain why there has been a significant growth of private school enrolment in the last two decades.

South Korea: A Study in Education

In keeping with my recent posts’ international bent, I would like to travel halfway across the world to take a look at South Korea’s education system and explain why it is so successful, as well as some of its shortcomings. I will address its unique features, and also identify how some schools in Canada already share similar characteristics. For my popular post on Finland’s School Model, please click here. In case you were wondering, the featured image of this post is the Korean Bell of Friendship in California.

As in Finland, teaching is a highly respected and desirable profession in South Korea. Their teachers receive competitive salaries and job stability, in return for acquiring rigorous academic credentials and professional qualifications. Due in part to South Korea’s complex job market, elementary teachers are from the top 5% of the high school academic cohort. The Korean government encourages teachers to undergo professional development throughout their careers by favoring candidates who receive additional certification with promises of promotion. This is in contrast to Ontario’s education system, whereby a candidate who graduates teachers college is considered “done”, having “finished” their qualifications. But continuing to receive training and professional development throughout their careers ensures that Korean teachers will never become complement at work, and instead adds new skills to their arsenal to adapt to our rapidly changing Digital Age. That is why I wanted St. Jude’s Academy to be an IB World school. In order to teach at St. Jude’s, our educators had to undergo additional training to become IB certified. This is to adhere to Switzerland’s strict international teaching standards, and to ensure the students will receive an international standardized education.

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Private Schools, Boys and ADHD

There has been a developing trend in North American education, whereby despite occupying a majority in several specialized programs (like STEM), in a general sense male students are lagging behind their female peers: around 60 per cent of university populations are female, and in school girls perform better than boys on standardized tests. In attempting to explain these developments, researchers are pointing towards two issues that seem diametrically opposed: the misdiagnosis of ADHD in students and the very high rates of ADHD diagnoses for boys.

Some symptoms of ADHD in children include trouble keeping still, excessive daydreaming, difficulty sleeping, and copious activity. In a traditional learning environment—where students are expected to remain seated and focused on a single activity for long periods of time—ADHD is often misdiagnosed as a learning disability in boys when they fail to perform well on assignments. ADHD is not a learning disability, though it does affect learning. On the other side of the coin, there is a proliferation of ADHD diagnoses in boys when in reality most boys are simply kinetic learners (which more and more educators are realizing the need to recognize). Kinesthetic learning provides a constructive outlet for pent-up physical energy by providing a more hands-on learning approach, but it is most often associated with PE class. Research has also shown that concept-based learning—tackling multiple concepts within a lesson instead of maintaining a steady uninterrupted stream of unchanging verbiage—can also maintain a child’s focus and direct their attention.

While the correct diagnosis of medical neurobiological disorders is an issue that falls outside the purview of my authority, I can contribute to the discussion on how private schools are helping both kinetic learners and ADHD students. St. Jude’s Academy specifically is equipped to engage male students who have been perfunctorily labeled as simply “hyperactive” by the public school system: we do not confine our students to desks, we let them move around. Our curriculum is designed to accommodate physical health and it also promotes student interactivity.

Private schools provide individualized learning and possess greater resources to help these students thrive. If any student begins to fall behind, they are not left behind. Thanks to small class sizes or small student-teacher ratios, teachers can come up with and implement a learning style for specific students that will allow them to demonstrate their true potential.

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Learning From Finland’s School Model

Finland’s one-of-a-kind education system boasts international renown, and its successful school model needs to be replicated by other counties if we want the next generation to carry the world forward into the twenty-first century. Finland’s students routinely rank at the top of the prestigious PISA report (Program for International Student Assessment) for science and math performance. Finnish students also continue their education for longer than most, with a higher average advancing to graduate and professional schools. And the average Finnish student speaks 4 languages by the time they finish “upper secondary education”! But what brought about this success and how can the Ontario Ministry of Education emulate it?

Forty years ago Finland was a poor agrarian country, severely lagging behind other industrialized nations. With a powerful reimagining of its future and a sincere desire to catch up, Finnish leaders devised a complex multi-step program to solve their low GDP: creating education equality. The idea was to provide an advanced education of equal quality to all children in the country in order to bolster the economy. It has certainly been working, thanks to one of many important reasons: the teachers.

Finland has created a culture of deep appreciation and respect for education and its educators, which has helped its agenda enormously. In Finland, educators are highly regarded, and as a vocation teaching receives the same respect and prestige as lawyers and doctors. It also requires the same investment. All teachers, regardless of the grade they teach, have a Master’s Degree and represent the top 10% of students from their graduating year at teacher’s college. Each school classroom has up to 3 teachers on hand to support one-on-one mentoring in the classroom, and teachers are encouraged to practice and try out experimental teaching methods. “Didacticism” is often their motto.

The Finnish school system is clearly successful, and I won’t waste space here reiterating the many statistics which prove it is so. It’s enough to make a person wish they could send their kids to Finland for school. While that’s probably out of the question for obvious financial concerns, what you can consider doing until the Ontario Ministry of Education decides to adopt some of Finland’s excellent practices is to send your child to private school – especially an IB World school with an internationally standardized education.

Right now, this is the best option to compete with the success of Finnish students – academically and career wise. Private schools have guaranteed small class sizes, which helps reconstruct the one-on-one mentor relationship multiple Finnish teachers have created. Teachers at IB World schools have higher qualifications, having undergone additional testing to be certified as IB teachers. Private schools also provide a rigorous and competitive academic learning environment, which emulates the national culture of high regard for education. Finnish schools are famous for having an only 2% dropout rate, and Ontario private schools are known for their high rates of sending their students to top universities: usually with a 100% success rate for graduating classes!  

So until the day you can enrol your child in Finland’s highly enviable education system, look for a Mississauga private school to serve as an excellent substitute!

Have a great weekend.

– A.S.

Can I Afford Private School?

Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Continue reading.

There are many studies, many researchers, and many of my blog posts that attest to the plethora of benefits your child will glean from acquiring a private school education. However, while enrolling your child in private school may have become an important family goal, you may be wondering about the daunting financial aspect.

Allow me to dispel a resilient private school myth, that only the elite can afford an elite education. Not true. Twenty-first-century private schools do not resemble the demographics of private schools from the past. A 2007 Ontario report noted that only half of all private school families reported an annual income of over $120,000. Middle-class families are quickly becoming one of the largest cohorts enrolling at private schools across Ontario, and if they can do it, so can you.

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About IB and its Growing Popularity

This week I received a couple of email questions asking for an explanation about what the International Baccalaureate (IB) program is exactly, and I am pleased to oblige.

Parents looking for a private school in Ontario to enrol their children in will undoubtedly come across many confusing school affiliations: OFIS, SSAF, CIS Ontario, CAIS, and of course, the IB. The International Baccalaureate was founded in 1968 in Geneva, Switzerland. It is a non-profit educational foundation offering four highly respected programs of international education (the IB Diploma Program is the highest tier and most widely offered one). The IB is divided into these 4 programs in order to target specific age ranges and provide the appropriate education depending on the age of the child. These programs develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills needed to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world. Schools must be authorized by the IB organization to be able to offer any of the programs. Teachers must also be “IB certified” in order to teach IB courses. Some private schools offer the three main programs so that students receive an IB education all throughout their school lives before university, while some schools merely offer a few IB courses instead of the actual programs.

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