By Sofia Alberga
Have you ever had the privilege to determine your strengths to predict your future? Applied and academic courses provide students with a choice to decide which courses they might feel more comfortable and confident in. Applied and academic courses differ as applied learning is more practical and hands-on; meanwhile, more advanced and theoretical learning is offered in academic courses. This practice has always been a subject of debate, arguing from the province and Premier Ford that this divide may ‘exclude a student from a world of opportunities later in life.’
The Ontario government plans to phase out Grade 9 academic and applied streaming beginning next fall, September 2022. The Ontario government's view is the concern attached to worsening inequality in the school system by inordinately directing marginalized students into the applied course: “Our Black, Indigenous, and racialized students face more social and economic barriers to success than their fellow students, and that’s just not right,” Premier Ford explained. He also added that “They deserve the same shot at their dreams as any other young person.” The overall deciding factor from the Ontario government to end streaming was the fact that this segregation is simply ‘not right.’ They conclude that fourteen-year-olds should not have to determine the course of their high school careers.
Harbord grade 9 students share contrasting opinions on this finalized education system. Sahara Queija, Harbord’s grade 9 rep, explains, “I think that it is a horrible idea banning grade 9 streaming, because not only is it unfortunate for the grade 9 students who want to have advanced work and be graded accordingly, but it is horrible for the applied students who are having this advanced work. It is going to be hard for them and going to make their grades worse and make them feel like they are not capable, but they actually are.”
“I think that the intent of de-streaming was positive, and I think that it is good that we are looking towards inequity in learning, but I believe that instead of creating and fostering an environment that is good for students and where students can learn from each other, remain unlabelled, and work in an environment where they can thrive, it is creating a greater divide between applied and advanced instead of uniting them as it was meant to do,” Grade 9 student, Arya Bari adds. “I also think that it is limiting students’ higher capabilities and placing standards on struggling students and standards where they can’t seek help for fear of being ridiculed by their classmates.”
Ontario ending streaming for Grade 9’s next year may influence differing views. However, many are currently viewing it as a step forward in education.