High school is quite different from K-8 school, not just because the students are older.
K-8 students take classes together according to grade, while high school students are enrolled in a credit system. This means that you will pass or fail each course individually.
Due to the credit system, high school timetables are considerably less flexible than K-8 timetables. School managers should ensure that each course has sufficient teaching time to cover the expected course content. Otherwise, the course will not be counted as a unit.
In a normal school year, most high schools divide the year into semesters. Students typically take four courses in the previous semester and then four different courses in the second semester. Individual classes are held about 1 hour a day, 5 days a week.
The semester system works well because it takes a balanced approach. The total load of the course is reasonable and the one-hour class is long enough to get the job done, but not long enough for students to struggle to pay attention. There are good reasons why the semester system is the most common schedule for Canadian high school students.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the high school schedule. To reduce student contact, many schools have adopted a four-semester timetable in which students take classes twice daily for 10 weeks. Each class session lasts about 3 hours each day.
Obviously this is not a good schedule for most high school students. It’s difficult to get students’ attention three hours at a time, not to mention five days a week. Due to this compressed schedule, the course progresses at a tremendous rate and students find it difficult to catch up.
Of course, last year was a rare year. The COVID-19 pandemic was in its infancy and the vaccine was not yet available. The school board wanted to keep students as safe as possible, and the quarter schedule was a way to minimize the chance of the virus being transmitted in school.
However, this year should be different. The COVID-19 vaccine is widely available and can be done by all high school students who wish to be vaccinated. This means that you don’t have to keep your students away all day long. High school needs to proceed with the regular semester timetable without worrying about the amount of contact between students.
The problem is that some boards of education choose to keep their quarter schedules. For example, a Saskatoon Public Board of Education high school should schedule less than twice a day for each student. This is unforgivable, especially as there is no scientific or educational basis for this decision.
Other boards of education have adopted modified timetables that are even more confusing for students. For example, the Thames Valley District Board of Education in London, Ontario has implemented a “revised semester” system in which students take four courses per semester, but only two courses per day. Therefore, students take two courses a week, two different courses the following week, and then again throughout the semester.
Messed up? You should be so. With this system, students are not only busy with nearly three hours of lessons each day, but also have to manage four courses instead of two. In addition, students take a week at a time instead of attending two courses, making it even more difficult to remember the content of each course.
Obviously, these revised schedules will be a disaster for students. There is no reason to impose a quarter or “revised semester” timetable on high school students. The normal semester system works fine. And they will be safe too.
Remember that it is a fool’s errand to think that the school can actually separate the students from each other. The school may be able to limit interactions within the class, but it can do nothing about the students hanging out during breaks, noon, and after-school activities.
High school students will interact with each other no matter what the school schedules. The school board should at least ensure that students have a regular schedule. Some things are really easy.
Michael Zwaagstra is a public high school teacher, senior researcher at the Frontier Public Policy Center, and Sages on stage: common sense thoughts on education and learning..
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.