Say “Yes” to Academic Streaming!

by PHOENIX

A while ago, I read an article that discouraged academic streaming within Ontario high schools. As someone who benefitted from the liberty of being able to select my appropriate level of study, I strongly disagree with the article.

My family never really pushed education, all of my motivation to succeed in school stemmed from my teachers and rivalries with fellow classmates. The first instance where I remember feeling “smart” was in the first grade when a teacher had praised me for reading at a fourth-grade level, and later on in the year asked me to opt out of in-class math competitions since I would always beat my fellow classmates. The first time I felt intellectually inferior to anyone was in grade 7, by which point I was in a French Immersion program at an accelerated school. There, my teacher was very vocal about who the “top students” were, and I would consistently round out the top 4, much to my dismay. More than anything, I wanted to surpass the three students who ranked above me, to the point where I would bring myself to tears out of frustration. Next to those 3 fellow students (who also joined me in high school), there was only one time, in the tenth grade, where my average was superior to all of them. Man, that felt amazing.

Anyways, in grade eight, I remember the course selection process for high school – and I remember being given a choice as to which level of courses I wanted to take. There were 4 available in my school: locally developed, applied, academic and advance placement (or AP). Naturally, I chose the most challenging possible levels for myself. For grade nines, only AP math and english were available for selection, but come grade 11, students had the option to select AP biology, art, history, chemistry and french – in addition to the previous courses. Being the stubborn, presumptuous overachiever that I was, I chose as many AP courses as I could fit into my schedule and I loved every moment of those classes. They usually consisted of a close-knit group of 10 – 25 students, and every single student was as driven to succeed as I was. This mentality really fostered a great environment for myself, it was great to surround myself with positive people who had direction in life and created healthy competition as I wanted to consistently emerge on the top-tier of students. Meanwhile, the attitude towards my studies at home were always fairly neutral. My parents used to discourage my advanced courses due to the seemingly excessive and overwhelming loads of homework and assignments. On numerous occasions, they would tell me to go to sleep and abandon whatever project I was working on, ridicule me for bringing my math homework to the beach while on “vacation” and even tell me to drop the classes so I wouldn’t have summer homework. As much as I want to please my parents, I persisted with my academic endeavors because of my classmates in my AP classes. One reason being that I knew I could handle the stress and pressures, another being that I didn’t want to lose this group of friends I had grown to love and gain the stigma of being an “AP drop-out”. We all grew pretty close with one another – going on to create Facebook groups and participate in activities together outside of class hours and this was only upon completion of grade 9. By our senior year, nearly everyday after school would be dedicated to AP exam preparation. Everyone was incredibly supportive, and I (having little to no friends outside of this program) found a community.

Had I not been granted the luxury of selecting AP classes for myself, I don’t think I would have managed to find a niche in a school containing over 2000 students, nor do I think I would have been so passionate about education. While my parents never really pushed education, they never discouraged it either. However, I don’t think I would be the person I am today without having been exposed to such a wonderful, passionate group of students and staff members for they pushed me to pursue something that my family approached with indifference.

Now I am a second-year university student. While I may not be enrolled in the most prestigious of programs, I go to a great school and my love for learning has remained consistently unparalleled, unrestricted and most of all – insatiable.