During the Ontario provincial election of May 2022, the Ontario Liberals proposed the Ontario Liberal Education plan, which raised the idea of reinstating an optional Grade 13 as a way for students to further enrich their learning before graduation.
After consistently experiencing interrupted learning throughout the pandemic, many students have been opting to complete a "victory lap", voluntarily staying in high school beyond the typical four years. Victory laps have been traditionally used to boost grades, complete missing prerequisites, and fulfill scholarship requirements. As of 2013 however, a 34-credit threshold was introduced by the Liberal party- limiting funding for most students who exceeded 34 credits (Hatherly, 2016).
A Grade 12 student at Nepean, Yana Golic, added her thoughts on the situation. “ A Grade 13 would be helpful, but only if schools are willing to help students with real-life skills. I think that’s a major problem with high schools now- that students are graduating with no idea how to cope with real-life problems”. Yana is not alone in expressing these concerns, other students added to the idea of feeling unprepared to deal with life after secondary school. Charlotte Dobson, also a student at Nepean, says that she hopes a year 13 would provide material more geared towards necessary life skills, such as budgeting and finances.
According to Steven Del Duca, the Liberal party’s leader from 2020-22, the optional Grade 13 would solve these issues by providing a structured alternative to the victory lap, and allowing students access to courses such as civics, personal finances, and mental health and well-being. The goal of the reintroduction would be to help students catch up on missed education caused by the pandemic, and introduce them to new skills. However, altering an entire school system is a large decision, so the drawbacks must also be considered.
Grade 13 was originally phased out of Ontario Secondary Schools in 2003 (Casey, 2022)- a removal that led to the introduction of applied vs. academic streams of study. Recently, this system of streaming has also begun being phased out of Ontario schools, after drawing criticism that it results in decreased opportunities for students. Removing this new system points to a return to old methods, perhaps making this the perfect time to reintroduce the concept of grade 13.
From quadmester systems, to cohorts and remote learning, high school education in Ontario has been in constant flux since the first school closure at the start of the pandemic in 2020. Students across all grades have been struggling to maintain some of the skills needed in order to succeed in secondary school such as group work, labs, and in-person exams. For many Grade 12 students at Nepean High School, this will be their first year in a traditional high school setting before graduation, and many feel ill-equipped to deal with this sudden transition. However, the addition of Grade 13 would offer students the time and opportunity to further hone their skills and explore additional courses, making it a viable solution.