As the same pattern. When inquiring into the averages

As is the case for many countries, the education system
is built with the objective of increasing human capital, and seen as a source
for increasing the productivity of an individual a part of society. As noted
by Alan Slavin, a physics professor at Trent University, and writer for the Canadian
magazine University Affairs, Ontario’s
newest curriculum introduced between 1997 and 1999, may be diminishing a
student’s critical thinking skills (2007). Slavin addresses the issue in his
article, “Has Ontario taught its high-school students not to think?”. While I
am inclined to agree with him, I must remark that Slavin puts the majority of
his focus on the smaller, more noticeable consequences of the newest
curriculum, and neglects to broaden his focus to the outside factors that may have
attributed to a student’s lack of a learning ability.

In his
article, Slavin compares his own continuous low-class average at Trent
University, with other professors at both Brock and Guelph University, noticing
the same pattern. When inquiring into the averages of schools outside of
province, Slavin was unable to find any similar data. The reoccurring observation
that Slavin notes, is a student’s reliance on their ability to memorize and
regurgitate. Slavin blames this shift in a student’s learning method on the
new emphasis being put on standardized testing, as well as the “content-intensive
curriculum” (2007), which is “beyond the mental development of students at that
level” (2007). Meaning that, with there being so much content to learn and
understand in a limited amount of time, students are forced to rely on their
memory, and unable to fully develop their analytical skills needed for future
Slavin brings
attention to the existence of grade inflation, and how the averages of
graduating students with over 80 percent in the 1960’s, has increased by
nearly 45% (2007). A person may assume that this is the cause of society
putting a greater emphasis on a student’s education, rather than their
athletic ability, as was the case nearly 60 years ago, though Slavin notes that
bell curving has become increasingly popular with professors in order to maintain
an “acceptable distribution” (2007). By giving student’s grades that are
higher than what they have earned in order to maintain a school’s academic reputation,
it is no surprise that Slavin has recognized a decrease in student work ethic;
primarily with students failing to hand in or pick up graded assignments.

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Students have no reason to put any extra effort towards their education, since
as Slavin explains, they are getting higher grades by simply memorizing
material over understanding it (2007).
While criticizing
what he believes to be a “content-laden curriculum” (2007), Slavin remains
small-minded in his analysis, neglecting to look at a child’s entire education
experience, instead of just what is being taught to them since the new
curriculum has been put in place. There has been a lack of responsibility
being taught to children as of late, with the “no-zero policy” contributing to
this. The no-zero policy was first implemented in 2010, by the Ontario Ministry
of Education, but has recently been revoked due to the negative effect it had
on the children. The policy allowed for students to hand in late or incomplete
work, and still receive a mark for it. The reasoning behind this policy was to
give students as many opportunities as possible, and allow them to further
their education (Smusiak, 2014). Currently, the no-zero policy has been terminated,
but that does not mean that the concept behind it has been forgotten. The
Ontario Ministry of Education states, that teachers are expected to hand out
zeros to children only as a “last resort” (Ontario, 2010). With this in mind,
teachers are highly unlikely to fail a student, since not only does it reflect
poorly on them as an educator and the school itself, but it is also considered
to be a step that is frowned upon by the ministry. By a teacher being lenient towards
a student, that student is then not expected to take responsibility for
his/her education, and does not become accustomed to the idea of failing.

Failing is an
inescapable part of reality, that children must learn is unavoidable and a
part of life. Children are being taught to fear the idea of failing though, as
Slavin notes that much of what is being taught by teachers, is with the sole
purpose of passing the standardized province-wide tests being given out by the
Ontario government (2007). By pairing the advanced curriculum with the need to
pass tests that are required in order for a student to graduate, a student is
then pressured into using memorization as a study tool.
Society is
always changing, and everyone in it is forced to learn to adapt and change along
with it. Years ago, it was expected in a two-parent household for the woman to
stay at home with the children, and for the husband to go to work. During the
1960’s, this attitude was followed by the majority of families, but in recent
years there has been a major shift in the role of the mother. In fact, according
to USA Today, in 2012 the percentage
of mother’s who chose to stay at home with the children instead of work has
decreased to only 29% (n.d, 2014). Therefore, it can be said that parental involvement
was much greater during the 1960’s then it is today, and that it may be a contributing
factor to a student’s low academic performance. There have been recent studies
including an article a part of the Indian
Journal of Health and Wellbeing, that have shown that parental involvement,
such as checking their child’s homework, has had a greater influence on a
child’s academic performance then the actual teachers (Ali, 2016). Children
spend less than 15% of their time at school (2016), the rest they are at home
with their parents. The more a child hears knowledge being passed through
conversation at home by their parents, the better off they will be. This
concept has become much harder to achieve though, with both mother and father
now working full-time jobs, and leaving their child without the opportunity to
listen and try to understand any of their conversations regarding academics.

Another point to be considered, is that with parents working an average of eight
hours a day, when they do have time to sit down and talk, their conversation
topics are reflections of how their day was, not academic related subjects
such as spatial properties. As noted by Ali, parents are most often clueless
about how to teach their children, and encourage “rote learning” (2016).

Slavin puts emphasis on the concept of memorization throughout his article,
which goes hand in hand with rote learning, which is a memorization technique
that is based on repetition. As observed by Slavin, memorization in all its
form, has become the easiest and fastest way of learning for a child-but not
the most beneficial.
It can be
concluded that Slavin was correct in his belief that a student’s learning
capability has suffered in lieu of the new curriculum, that continues to
pressure children into learning by memorization. What Slavin failed to
consider though, were the less obvious, yet just as important factors that
have made a contribution. The no-zero policy has had a lasting effect on the
mindset of both students and teachers, that when paired with the changes of a
two-parent household and a student’s fear to fail, has created a problem of
great magnitude. It took nearly 10 years for the effects of the newest
curriculum to be noticeable, so perhaps any new changes to be made in the near
future will have predictors that can be caught before any lasting effects can





Ali, A., &
Rajalakshmi, M. S. (2016). A concept paper on the importance of introducing
parents to the multiple intelligences concept to help understand their child’s
learning styles. Indian Journal of Health & Wellbeing, 7(8),

Smusiak, C.

(2014, July 24). Why Schools Need to Scrap the No-Zero Policy. Retrieved
January 21, 2018, from

Why Schools Need to Scrap the No-Zero Policy

G. O. (2010, December 7). Student Success/Learning to 18. Retrieved January 20,
2018, from

(n.d). (2014,
April 14). Best for moms to be home? USA Today.

Slavin, A.

(2007, September 10). Has Ontario taught its high-school students not to think?
Retrieved January 21, 2018, from

Has Ontario taught its high-school students not to think?