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Old 06-13-2008, 05:37 PM
 
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Default US public schools versus public schools in Canada

I've posted this question already on education forum, but no one seems to know the answer there, so I've decided to post it here too if you don't mind.
After I've had an experience of dealing with the methods of education in US public schools, ( my son is in 7th grade by now,) I wonder if there are any people here who know what's the difference between the US and Canadian public schools in terms of quality of education.
Needless to say I was appalled by the level of teaching in US schools in academic sence, because it's nowhere close to the level of Soviet schools, that I was attending long time ago. I do see a big difference in METHODS of education that Russians applied comparably to US methods, where the text-books are missing from the first grade on. With the absence of texbooks DEFINITE standards of what needs to be achieved by students by the end of the year, the ultimate measure of progress are obviously absent as well (as far as parents are concerned.)
I know that education in public schools is better in Europe ( although some Brits told me that the quality of it is getting somewhat worse lately as well,) and I've heard that Canadian education in public schools is better then in US.
Does anyone know why exactly, and what's the major difference between Canadian and American public schools?
Is it the difference in methods of teaching? The standards? The requirements for diploma?
Any information would be appreciated, thanks in advance.
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Old 06-13-2008, 08:49 PM
 
Location: Vancouver, BC
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This will be difficult to analyze as Canada's education system falls into provincial jurisdiction - each province has its own way of doing things. There are different standards for each province, each province has different requirements for diplomas, but it's all pretty similar.

Because public education in Canada is provincial, it tends to be standardized regardless of what neighbourhood, town or city you end up in.

In Canada, every student has to follow the same meticulously-planned curriculum set out by the province, regardless if their school is located in a poor neighbourhood or a rich neighbourhood. And since it's the province that funds the schools, you don't have quite the same dichotomy of poor school vs rich school that we hear about in the USA (ie: "inner city" schools are abysmal compared to wealthy suburban schools). While in Canada if you live in a poor neighbourhood, it doesn't mean that the public schools you go to are of bad quality. It's more of a social demographic issue than a trule quality of education issue. The general vibe is that public education in Canada is considered "good".

However, really give you actual useful advice, it would help to know where in Canada you'll end up.

A funny, if not trivial difference - there is less patriotism instilled in Canadian schools compared to American schools. While Canadian history, geography, etc is taught in Canadian schools, there is also a lot of global outlook. Teaching methodology, etc, varies based on school, teacher, etc. Some schools have advanced placement programs to help students enter university earlier. Some schools have French Immersion programs, or Montessori programs - all a part of the public school system. Multiculturalism tends to be embraced, so kids tend to learn a lot about their peers backgrounds/different ethnicities.

Last edited by Robynator; 06-13-2008 at 08:59 PM..
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Old 06-13-2008, 09:49 PM
 
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Thank you, I appreciate your information however I am still left with a lot of questions. So if you can carry on - would you please...
See, recently I was participating in one particular thread "American school" on Russian forum, where few Russians living in US were discussing this subject as well. The sentiment was unanimous - the standards of curriculum in US public schools are very low comparably to what we used to. And we are not talking here about "inner city" American schooling - for example I live in relatively small town with two Universities and college in the neighbourhood, plus our state in general ranks high in terms of school education ( granted - I've heard that includes private schools as well.) So no *inner city* in picture here, as much as places where other particpants of this discussion live. One of them said that her daughter went from third grade in Moscow straight to the fifth grade in US and didn't learn anything new. She ( the parent) talks about crummy sheets of paper for coloring that her daughter keeps on bringing home as "homework." Same picture here, with my son's "homework." Recently he got "F" for German and I didn't even bother to comment on it: he failed to color yet another poster - that was the biggest part of their curriculum throughout most of the year. That, and learning traditions of "Octoberfest." And this is seventh grade - outrageous. No physics, no lessons of chemistry in sight and poor excuse for "history lessons."
So my question here - does Canadian system of education ( well, the provinces to be precise as you've mentioned,) set the higher standards for curriculum - is it closer to European standards ( I assume they are somewhat higher then here in US,) or what do you think regarding this matter?

Thanks in advance,
E.

Last edited by erasure; 06-13-2008 at 10:41 PM..
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Old 06-13-2008, 10:28 PM
 
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Oh, I see -

"A funny, if not trivial difference - there is less patriotism instilled in Canadian schools compared to American schools. While Canadian history, geography, etc is taught in Canadian schools, there is also a lot of global outlook. "

They seem to teach "global outlook" here as well, but how can you learn anything with the kind of approach - well, let me give you an example...
My son ( and everyone else in his class) have been given an assignment "to read a book about famous person" - ANY famous person, and then to share a story with a class. It doesn't matter who that "famous person" is - be that Stalin or David Beckham. Oh insanity of it all.(However as I've said - we live in *good school district*)
I mean there was enough of shortcomings in Soviet system of education too - the propaganda part and that level of "rocket scientist" math in high school, no matter whether you were actually planning to become one or not.
But as far as "global outlook" - from 4th to 10th grade we were studying the history of Ancient world, - ( Egypt, Mesopotamia,) the history of ancient Rome and ancient Greece, the history of medieval Europe ( history of church including,) history of Asia and Africa, history of US, history of Russia and Soviet Union separately. (And that's only history we are talking here - I don't mention the level of math and physics.) Even if it's "too academic" - yes, it does give certain "global outlook." I wonder whether you have anything close to it in Canadian schools? Here in US it seems to be only "Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King" theme year after year, with civil war and "native indians" in-between. Not that I have anything against Rosa Parks, or "art and crafts" of native indians, but...
As for "patriotism" installed in children in American schools - yes, I can sense something reminiscent of Soviet times here. I wish they'd have less of "social programming" in schools and more of academic learning.
Can you tell I am frustrated? Yes I am.
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Old 06-14-2008, 08:05 AM
 
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My son went from do absolutely nothing and I mean zero work in Texas getting straight A's. The letter for the jacket and the whole thing. We moved to Alberta for his grade 12 year and he had to work to get B's. Something new to him having lived in TX for 7 years.

When we were talking to the schools before we moved they said they take 10-30(!!) percent off the TX grades to decide how the child should be placed. I think the problem in TX is that the school, the teachers and the principles are paid bonuses depending on how the kids do on the stupid standardized tests. So they teach the kids how to write standardized tests and not how to think for themselves.

What would be options here - swim team, football, band are classes there. My sons last two periods every day for 3 years was swim team. He was in great shape and the school swim team he was on here in grade 12 was a joke compared to TX. But really...

He also was unable to continue the band he did in middle school. You cannot do band and a sport. They put so much time into each you have no room to do both.

The schools in the area we were in also were juggled as to grade and number to ensure only one high school in the town. You can't split the football team up you know! Like grade 9 was in one school. That's it - the whole school was grade nine one year. That has since changed. The city just got too big.

That was in the public school system. There was a private school in town and I had some friends with kids there. Only difference I saw was how much they paid for much of the same.
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Old 06-14-2008, 11:32 AM
 
Location: Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
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It really depends -- I attended high school in the United States and then CEGEP in Montreal (Quebec's mandatory post-secondary step between university and high school) and found that the US high school I attended was far more rigourous and competitive than the Canadian schools. I admittedly attended a public high school in Fairfax County Virginia, a very wealthy suburb of DC -- all my classes were either Advanced Placement or IB (Internatinal Baccalaureat) since the competition for US universities is fierce and only those with the highest SAT scores, most activities, and best GPA make it --- I would say the situation in Canada is far more relaxed...McGill and U of T are nowhere near as difficult to enter as Yale, Harvard, or even some of the better state institutions such as UVA or Berkeley.

That said, the US system varies very widely depending upon the county, township, city etc where the school is located...there are even wide variations within the same county. In my high school the students taking advanced placement or IB classes tended to separate themselves from what were unfortunately referred to as the "dumb kids" -- segregation by intelligence or perceived intelligence starts very early in many US public schools with the children identified as having greater potential sent towards gifted and talented classes while those in regular classes often receive substandard instruction.

So the US system CAN be far far better...it just lacks any semblance of equality and like most things in the US, requires that one fight and compete viciously from a young age to gain a spot among the "smart kids"
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Old 06-14-2008, 01:35 PM
 
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I'm not sure I agree with the fierce competition comment above. All my sons friends got into decent schools - not Yale, Harvard etc admittedly. Non of them were high academic achievers - mostly average. They got into A and M, UT Austin, etc.

They were all just normal kids. I think we push too hard for the high GPA's, pushing kids into too many activities because they need it for their resumes to get into college. Someone in one of the other forums is looking for a private pre K that doesn't cost more than $10,000 for heavens sake. My son went to a public pre K (only 3 half days a week - mostly for socialization cause he's an only) in CA. It was mostly lower income families. Other kids on our block went to "private" pre K and kindergardens. He's in 3rd year computer engineering, doing as well or better than his friends from that time.

I hope my sons generation of parents is not over the top competitive like my generation was. I think his generation missed out on a lot of just play time. They were far too busy.

All JMHO of course!
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Old 06-14-2008, 05:01 PM
 
Location: Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snappy View Post
I'm not sure I agree with the fierce competition comment above. All my sons friends got into decent schools - not Yale, Harvard etc admittedly. Non of them were high academic achievers - mostly average. They got into A and M, UT Austin, etc.

They were all just normal kids. I think we push too hard for the high GPA's, pushing kids into too many activities because they need it for their resumes to get into college. Someone in one of the other forums is looking for a private pre K that doesn't cost more than $10,000 for heavens sake. My son went to a public pre K (only 3 half days a week - mostly for socialization cause he's an only) in CA. It was mostly lower income families. Other kids on our block went to "private" pre K and kindergardens. He's in 3rd year computer engineering, doing as well or better than his friends from that time.

I hope my sons generation of parents is not over the top competitive like my generation was. I think his generation missed out on a lot of just play time. They were far too busy.

All JMHO of course!
See there is a major difference in perception and difficulty for entry between UT and Berkeley for example....this is something that Canadians never look at as closely because frankly the differences between Yale and Univ of Indiana are far far greater in terms of getting in than between McGill and Concordia or U of T (Toronto) and Ryerson. Canada is far more egalitarian -- the US, more geared towards the extreme ends of the spectrum.

I went to McGill and did my master's at Cornell so I have seen both sides and I agree wholeheartedly with you that the quality of the education is equal at most schools, I am merely talking about the difficulty to get into school. Canadian schools do not even take into account things like extracurricular activities in most cases......I found that my US high school experience was difficult and students were extremely competitive. This may also reflect a difference between the DC area and Texas. In DC it is definitely a rat race....Texas I cannot speak to. Quebec public schools, while not bad, are geared towards providing a middle ground education....for students who want to compete and excel, these schools provide few avenues --- mediocrity was the rule.


Overall, a student in Advanced Placement or other accelerated classes in a US public school in a wealthy, well-funded area, gets a better education than the average Canadian student. The problem is, most students in the US do not have access to these classes and school funding is almost entirely determined by one's ability to live within an affluent school district.

Wealth still does determine success and educational outcomes in the US. In Canada, this is not nearly as important.
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Old 06-14-2008, 07:15 PM
 
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The things you say make sense and I think you are right and that our experiences in TX and VA were quite different.

What do you think about the mediocrity and the level playing field created by providing only the middle ground? Is this a bad thing? I think it still allows kids like mine to get to where they need to be but that it also allows the lower income, perhaps not as enriched students a chance to benefit. Or is that an incredibly classist(is that a word?) statement.

Do you think the kids that have "it" are going to make "it" regardless of their primary school experience?

I have to say that it is interesting to be on the far end of the spectrum. My thoughts on the matter are quite different than when mine was entering pre K.

What are your thoughts on the comparative quality of university education north and south of the border. My husband and I graduated from U of A and my son will graduated form U of C. Neither are McGill's, or Toronto's but we have fine jobs. Should we have aspired to go to a "better" school? Should we have pushed our son to apply at better schools?

Maybe I really am Canadian and mediocrity is ok with me. LOL What I have is good and I hope my son ends up where he is happy too. I fear for some of the kids that are constantly pushed and told they have to produce the best all the time.
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Old 06-14-2008, 09:53 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by avironneur View Post
Overall, a student in Advanced Placement or other accelerated classes in a US public school in a wealthy, well-funded area, gets a better education than the average Canadian student. The problem is, most students in the US do not have access to these classes and school funding is almost entirely determined by one's ability to live within an affluent school district.
Wealth still does determine success and educational outcomes in the US. In Canada, this is not nearly as important.
Avironneur, you are basically repeating here what Robynator mentioned earlier - the inequality in US as far as access to decent school education goes. ( That's in the country with "equal opportunities," he-he))) )
There is nothing new about it, and I do understand the difference between the "life style" somewhere in Fairfax Virginia and Bronx in New-York.
That was not however exactly my question. What I want to know for example, is whether there is any difference in methods of education (in elementary through middle school) in Canada versus US? Things like - do they use text-books in elementary schools in Canada? How do parents control the learning process of their children? ( Do they even have any control over it, because it's not the case in US. )
My son didn't make it as far as high school yet, so I am looking at things from middle school perspective. Since back in my school we were learning physics, chemistry and all starting from 5th grade, we were gradually reaching pretty high level by the 9th grade. Here in US my son hasn't been introduced to such things even in 7th grade. I'd like to know whether it would be the same case in Canada - things like that.
PS. Snappy, I am surprised to read that in Texas they force kids to play in band as part of "curriculum" as well. I thought that our state was an exception, since I find it quite abnormal to regard playing in a band as part of "education." My son's music teachers are wonderful and all, but I do look at it as pure waste of time, since my kid plays classical piano anyway, and that takes time to practice too.
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Last edited by erasure; 06-14-2008 at 10:42 PM..
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