Earlier this week, The Queen’s University Journal published an article entitled “Ontario’s first fully virtual high school hints at the future of public education.” In the article, the reporter described the creation of Ontario’s first fully public e-learning school that had been created by the Peel District School Board. In the article, she stated:
For years, obtaining an online Ontario Secondary School Diploma was possible, but expensive. Secondary schools—like Ontario Virtual School, TVO ILC, and Virtual High School—all offer standard curriculum courses, but with a hefty price tag. Enrolling in a single online course can cost between $40 to $540, depending on the provider. Creating Peel Virtual Secondary School, which offers public rather than private schooling, makes education financially accessible… (paras.5-6)
In many circles, this news will be seen as a response to the remote learning that has occurred in Ontario over the past two years – and the reality that for some children this was a preferable model for learning. Or it could be seen through the lens of the e-learning graduation requirement that the Government has mandated.
However, if this news is viewed through the lens of the larger Canadian context, it might lead readers to ask why wasn’t a publicly-funded full-time option available to students in Ontario already?
Within our school system there are students who simply don’t learn well when forced to sit in desks that are organized in rows facing the teacher at the front of the room and/or moving from room to room in one hour blocks. There are students in our system who have an inability to sit still or quietly in that room for any length of time. There are students in our system who are bullied on a daily basis, but live in an area where it is geographically impossible for them to simply go to another school. There are students who have career or talent-related opportunities while they are still in school that prevent them from attending a physical school on a regular basis. There are any number of students that don’t learn well or do not have the opportunity to learn in the manner in which schools are currently organized. Should we ask the student to continue to be bullied, simply to attend a brick-and-mortar school? Should we ask the student to pass up the opportunity to play on Hockey Canada’s under-17 team? Or should we provide these students with the opportunity to continue their studies in a non-traditional format? Right now, these students must enrolled in the self-directed courses offered by the Independent Learning Centre or enroll in a private, Ontario-accredited online school in order to continue to receive an Ontario Secondary School Diploma education. Why not allow students to get their high school diplomas entirely online if they want that option?
This is not to suggest that this option is for all students or the majority of students or even a significant minority of students. However, it seems odd – particularly given that this opportunity is available in most provinces and territories – that prior to the creation of the Peel Virtual Secondary School that students had NO publicly-funded full-time e-learning option at all!