Lowering the bar
I always dreaded finals in high school. I never had my notes organized, forgot the material covered throughout the semester and always procrastinated studying. As a result, whenever January and June came about, I would moan and complain about the unavoidable, terrible and gut-wrenching finals that I faced.
That sense of pressure, anxiety and, let’s be honest, panic, isn’t something high school students have to face today. As of this year, the Regina Public Schools Division has drastically revised its policy on final assessments, virtually eliminating all meaningful finals. The revised policy is as follows: if one has seven or fewer absences in each class, less than three lates, no uncompleted assignments and a passing average, one’s final exam cannot negatively impact the final mark within that class.
This new policy is extremely alarming. High school students can now either eliminate efforts towards studying for finals or simply forego exams. These exams contribute to 15-20 per cent of a student’s final grade, so for those attempting to raise their mark by acing their finals will see no point in doing so, as the weight will only produce a marginal increase. This may seem fantastic for students in high school now, but for those students pursing post-secondary education upon graduation, these “free passes” will no longer exist. Instead, students will have no choice but to write finals that are sometimes up to half of their final grade. As well, several professors will not let you pass a course without passing the final exam. Therefore, it can be concluded that it’s dangerous to adopt such a policy within our high school system that severely contrasts the realities of university.
Secondly, this new policy drastically undermines the quality of our high school students’ education. A final assessment shouldn’t be an incentive tool for a student’s attendance. A final exam is an imperative tool that can engage a student’s intellectual development. For instance, one may incorporate questions that compare and contrast various concepts within the curriculum, engage in higher-level thinking through a holistic lens within the sphere of the curriculum, while reinforcing the material that the student was exposed to. Policies like these effectively erase an opportunity for intellectual development for our students.
A counterpoint can be made that this new policy will raise attendance and punctuality. One may argue that policies like these will help the declining 72.3 per cent graduation rate within Saskatchewan. However, that is a backwards argument. Forfeiting the notion of meaningful finals, thus lowering the bar for everyone, isn’t the correct way to raise graduation and educational rates. What must occur is educational reform and improvement, such as a refined curriculum that engages students; more autonomy for capable, experienced, and intelligent teachers within their respective schools; or even a penalty system for students that decide to skip class.
Hindsight is 20/20. If I had been given the opportunity to forego my finals when I was that nervous, panicked and anxious kid back in high school, there is no doubt in my mind that I would have given up my finals. But, looking back, I realize that those finals helped me develop academically and intellectually, while challenging me to absorb the knowledge I was exposed to. Without them, I would have had a more difficult time transitioning into university. I sincerely hope that the Regina Public School Board repeals or reforms this policy, for the betterment of our students.