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Unschooled children 

The only thing that can be done to immediately improve junior's math grade is to enroll him in a private school.

I want my grandson to attend university. I taught in one for 30 years. Now that my grandson is in junior high school I have been interested in his preparation, particularly in mathematics and English. He is an A student with an occasional B. Early in grade 7 he received a B on a math test, because he was a bit slow in factoring (63=7x3x3). He had not learned his times tables well enough so that products came immediately to his mind (63=7x9). This is a specific example of a widespread deficiency in our school program; little or no attention is paid to the development of skills.

An example from English: because phonetics are not taught, my grandson had difficulty reading aloud new text, because he had been taught to "read past" a word he did not know and infer its content from the context of the text.

Last year I began to be concerned that in his school the curriculum which is necessary for university preparation was not being completed. This year, grade 8, the math text being used was written by a committee of Nova Scotia teachers and administrators; it is published by a national publishing house. There are 10 chapters, each with four sections---one section per week, I thought. At the end of September, my grandson's class was still in the first section of the first chapter. Clearly, they were not going to cover the curriculum.

I believe in the common good. I am happy to pay taxes for the provision of services which are best provided by public institutions such as schools. In 2008, my personal provincial income taxes were about $13,000. I have decided that the school system is not providing the services which are essential for my grandson to have a successful first year at university. And I have concluded that the only thing that can be done to immediately remedy this situation is to enroll my grandson in a private school. I doubt that a rebate from the province, to compensate for services not provided, is possible.

My grandson's transition to the private school is going well. In grade 8 mathematics they are using the same text used in the public schools. On the first of October they were in section one of chapter two: one section per week, as I thought it should be.

I hope that a reader of The Coast will be a candidate for election to the school board, on a platform which proposes major changes to the administration of our provincial schools. After all, the administrators are responsible for the deplorable state of education here. We are preparing our students for low-paying, dead-end jobs. One solution might be to remove principals from the teacher's union and make them responsible to demonstrate, publicly, the accomplishments achieved by their schools. I now know of one private school which can demonstrate that 97 percent of its graduates are admitted to university. —Name withheld by request, Halifax


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