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Back to School-ish: Pandemic Edition

Updated: Aug 28, 2022

Canadians spend an average of 12 years going through the modern education system. After 12 years spent - one would hope to graduate with a thorough understanding of reading, writing and arithmetic… the underlying premise of literacy.

In truth, this is only part of how literacy is defined.

Did you know that a large percentage of Canadians have difficulty coping with the literacy and numeracy demands of modern work?

This tidbit of information may come as a surprise. Let's revisit our definition of literacy.

Taken one step further, to be considerate literate not only means to demonstrate the ability to read, write, and perform mathematical operations, but also translates as being able to apply this learning to function in society and the economy (Statistics Canada, 2005).

It would seem as though we have the aptitude with the former, but struggle with the latter.

So after spending my youth going to school, you’re telling me I’m not equipped to function in society and support my country’s economy?

Well. The hard truth is that most countries are doing quite poorly in global literacy assessments - that’s the good news (kind of). For more on this click here.

If I put the spotlight on Canada, and run a comparison against several other countries, such as Italy, Norway, Switzerland, Bermuda, the U.S, etc… Canada is a low performer.

Canadians get a C.

48% of Canadians lack the literacy skills necessary to be fully competent in most jobs available in our economy (The Conference Board of Canada, 2012). This number should be alarming, especially given that byway of certificates, diplomas and degrees, Canada is one of the most educated nations in the world.

So, if not to be literate, what exactly are my children learning in school?

Most parents send their children to school because they believe that schools offer an efficient way to help their children develop various literacies. This is false and has been false since the early 20th century.

The purpose of schooling is social efficiency.

We’ve all been through it. The education system creates classifications for each student, as early as possible. Each child represents a standardized human unit that will follow a path that aligns to specific, difficult and manual tasks. Your child is evaluated based on their social and academic “fit” which is mapped to an “intellectually attainable” career path. Guidance counsellors support or discourage your child based on “objective” criteria and outline the probability of success/failure in achieving "lofty" career aspirations. One can guess my overarching attitudes toward such a mechanism.

In any case, this has been the norm for over a century. COVID-19 has changed the game.

In what way?

Due to health and safety concerns, large discussion forums are being had across the country as parents gauge how best to approach “back to school” in a COVID world. The options considered are interesting. Some parents opting for online only, or in-school, others are going for a hybrid model, then of course homeschooling… and then there’s the new and ever growing in popularity, unschooling.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with unschooling, it intentionally delineates from modern day education.

Also known as natural learning.

To be clear, unschooling isn’t a method or an alternate form of standardized education from the silver platter of options available. Unschooling is founded on an inherent trust that children and parents will find a path that works according to their individual needs, without depending on educational institutions, academic publishing houses or any of those “experts” guiding the way to literacy (and failing roughly half the time based on statistics).

As a parent you can attest to the rigidity of school programming. The curriculum isn’t built to fit the specific needs and dispositions of your child. Your child is meant, expected, to fit the mould that currently exists. The centralization and standardization of schooling has helped very few children in developing healthy attitudes toward learning and seeing themselves as valuable, contributing members of society.

So, COVID has given parents and families an opportunity to reinvent the wheel. Parents across the world are educating their children, their own way. Parents are developing the confidence, by recognizing that they have the competence, to satisfy their children’s thirst for knowledge, which all children have, while preserving each child’s individuality.

There are many ways to learn, and many more ways to teach. Parents are learning that and so are their children. Here’s to doing away with socio-normative rules on how learning ought to translate.




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