Tag Archives: school

Ontario: Special Education Needs

While controversy continues to swirl around the province’s policy changes to autism services, children who require special education are struggling to get their rightful education. According to a 2014 People for Education report, “half of Ontario’s elementary school principals said they have told students with special needs to stay home from school for all or part of the day”. Students with special needs are often glossed over and are too easily cited as “disruptive” to other students in the traditional learning atmosphere of public schools. Schools are legally required to accommodate a student’s needs, however many schools currently do not have the capacity to provide for special education needs.

A personal report published by the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth revealed that in 2015 “many youth felt shut out by educators who had low expectations of them”. Unfortunately, right now parents’ options for helping their special needs children seems to be dwindling to either homeschooling their child, or enrolling them at an independent special needs school. This is not a feasible solution to the oversight of the public education system. It seems parents are currently carrying the brunt of the responsibility for their child’s special education needs. 

According to OurKids, there are only two independent special needs schools in Mississauga, one of them being Oakwood Academy, the sister school of St. Jude’s Academy. Oakwood Academy is the only recognized school in Canada using the Developmental Individual Differences Relationship-Based (DIR®) model, and offers an individualized education program that is developmentally-based and multi-sensory. Their team of professionals includes Developmental Therapists, Certified Ontario Teachers, Clinical Psychologists, an Occupational Therapist, Speech Language Pathologist and Music Therapist.

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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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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.

Dear Reader

Are you a discerning individual, looking to read insightful pieces on North America’s education landscape? Are you look for variety and a different take on the same old news articles you read every day? Are you wondering how best to manage your child’s educational future? Then please look no further, because this is the blog for you. I hope to interest you in my personal pieces about educational trends and news, and I welcome all comments!

A.S.