Statistics Canada's latest Youth in Transition (YIT) study provides clear evidence that most high schools are not properly preparing students for university. About 14 per cent of first-year university students in the study dropped out; that's one in every six students! And 55 per cent of Ontario university professors surveyed reported that their students today were less prepared for university work than students just three years earlier. Professors cited declining writing and numeric skills, an over-reliance on Internet resources, lower maturity levels and poor work habits as some of the reasons why students are failing to make the grade at Canadian universities. While public schools grapple with ways to make the system work, the best private schools are already focused on university preparedness.
Lack of Rigor
Students themselves see problems with the skills they acquire at most public high schools. They complain of having earned high grades for minimal effort, being spoon-fed material and of teachers gearing course material to the level of the ‘C' student. With this type of education, it's not surprising that many students are unable to keep up with the demands of post-secondary education. More than one-third of students find their studies "really stressful,” according to the YIT study.
Families who expect their children to continue on to post-secondary education are assessing their options carefully. While motivated students do well in public school settings, they may not be receiving the education they deserve. Even those public schools that deliver good programs can't always create a culture of excellence, which is one of the key ingredients in encouraging academic achievement.
The best private schools have always been engaged in preparing students for their place in the larger world. In the past, and certainly now in the 21st century, private schools expect their students to excel as university undergraduates and to progress to whatever level of education they wish to attain.
To this end, top private schools work to instill in students the value of knowledge and achievement. They require students to take responsibility for themselves and their work, while emphasizing the importance of possessing a superior work ethic. Private schools aim to create a highly motivated environment, where students will want to reach their full academic potential. The best private schools contend that attitude, knowledge, skills and responsibility are all essential to academic excellence.
Private schools also feature small class sizes, which ensure that teachers can spend sufficient time working one-on-one with students to help them capitalize on their strengths and improve in weak areas.
Challenging courses at private schools set the academic bar high and far surpass provincial requirements. Skills such as reading comprehension and writing for purpose, numeracy and data interpretation are basic for private school students. Many schools offer advanced courses, which resemble university-level classes in scope and method of delivery. Realistic marking scales ensure that students know where they stand academically and extra help is available for students who require it.
Laying the Foundation
The best private schools in Toronto see a secondary education not as an end in itself, but as a foundation for life-long learning. University-bound students and their parents will enjoy exploring the possibilities of the city's wide variety of private schools.