The good news is that the Greater Victoria School District’s high-school graduation rate is at its highest level ever. The bad news is that more than a fifth of students are still dropping out before graduation.
In the 21st century, that is unacceptable. We can’t afford it.
Superintendent John Gaiptman recently released the figures that show the district’s graduation rate has risen to 78 per cent for all students, the highest ever recorded.
The graduation rate for aboriginal students rose to 53 per cent. That’s way too low, but a marked improvement since 2008, when the rate dipped to 33 per cent.
The upward trend is cause for optimism, but not for congratulations — that comes when every student attains a high-school diploma.
High-school graduates earn more, have better health, enjoy a higher quality of life and are less likely to be a drain on society than those who drop out of high school. According to one U.S. source, dropouts are twice as likely to live below the poverty line, three times more likely to be unemployed and eight times more likely to be in jail.
In a 2008 study done for the Canadian Council on Learning, Simon Fraser University’s Olena Hankivsky calculated the economic costs to Canada of high school non-completion at nearly $40 billion annually. The toll in terms of disappointment and misery can’t be measured.
The B.C. government is faced with the problem of balancing the books, but given what’s at stake, skimping on education budgets seems counter-productive. However, funding for education is only one factor.
It’s more important to develop a culture in which finishing high school is regarded as the bare minimum for education. That starts long before a child enters school, and is primarily the responsibility of parents.
Hankivsky’s study estimated that raising the high-school graduation rate one percentage point would save the country nearly $6 billion a year.
But more important than dollars, a higher level of education means a healthier, safer and more productive community and province.
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