Two things differentiate the best schools in Canada

Last week was a busy travel week, with meetings in five CAIS schools in three provinces. If that cross-Canada perspective doesn’t impress you, consider this – none of the schools were in Ontario. I met with students, staff, leadership teams, and boards, and in every school, I had the chance to build on the work of our 2051 Project.

So what’s new? What impressed me most? Two things:

CAIS Schools are doing even more to differentiate their programs and enhance their unique value

What I saw in my travels was inspirational:

I was struck last week, as is often the case, by the commitment to providing more than the provincial requirements in terms of curricular and co-curricular offerings. But there’s more.

I have been conducting 2051 Student Focus Groups for over a year (See our video here) but last week, I took time to ask students about this idea of “more.” What I heard is that they want less traditional classes and more focus on life-oriented, real skills and experiential learning. And what, specifically, do they mean by “more interesting stuff”? Here’s their list:

  • Home economics – Why can’t schools teach us to prepare healthy food?
  • Finances, mortgages, taxes, and budgets – Everyone needs to learn this, so why don’t schools teach this? And not just in a lower level math class – schools should teach financial acumen to all students.
  • Cars and other opportunities to make and fix things – There’s a difference between “book smart” and other kinds of smart. Students don’t want to be naïve and lacking in hands-on activities that are worth learning.
  • Global issues and market trends – What is happening with Alberta oil and gas? Students may get this in certain classes, but they want to be on top of world events, and they want more debate on current issues.
  • People skills like communication and team work – Why is it considered an added bonus when some great teachers choose to focus on this?
  • Arts – Why can’t high school allow more time to explore more of a variety of activities?
  • Opportunities for personal discovery, character development, and leadership.

The challenge for schools is always time. How do you meet the provincial curriculum, get your students in to the best universities, AND offer more experiential and co-curricular opportunities? Fear not! Students can make this happen too – offer more experiences, especially at younger ages; redesign how we teach the current curriculum; create flexible schedules; and rethink learning opportunities outside of the classroom.

As usual, I ended the week with confirmation of one simple truth:

CAIS Schools ask, listen and act on, the advice of their students.

p.s. Honoured to make the January 22 Photo of the Day at BCS!


3 thoughts on “Two things differentiate the best schools in Canada

    • Thanks for sharing- I’m going to look at this school. Have you considered joining CAIS? The best schools in Canada choose to hold themselves to CAIS’ high National Standards and Peer review process.

  1. I have long thought that all high schools should develop mandatory courses called “Real Life 101”.

    Included: Making a Budget, Public Speaking, Personal Fitness & Health (mental and physical), Nutrition, Simple Home Cooking, Housekeeping (I’m serious!), Conflict Management, Negotiations (think car loans, salary raises, arguments with bosses!), Mechanics (changing a tire?), Digital Media Basics, Giving Presentations, Putting Together CVs and Job-Seeking, Networking, Finding Mentors, Writing Thank You Letters (again, I’m serious!) and Personal Finance!…

    I would sign my kids up in a second and so would every parent I know.

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