Vancouver independent school aims to rectify that
The biggest challenge facing Canada right now is not inflation or spendthrift governments, serious though those are. It is not even climate change and environmental issues. What is holding Canada and many other countries back right now is a stifling lack of appropriately trained human resources.
Lack of staff now limits how existing businesses can grow and whether new businesses can start. Right now, the number of job openings exceeds the number of people looking for work.
The 21st-century economy provides people in countries like Canada with many goods and services which did not exist even as late as a few decades ago. Examples are mRNA-based vaccines to keep us healthy, cars that do not need carbon-based fuels and devices on which we can chat with other people or even with a machine.
To continue to flourish at this level, we need a sufficient quantity of people to fill the jobs. The quality of the labour force is also essential. Canadians must have the training, knowledge and skills to function in the rapidly advancing circumstances that technology has generated and in which we now live.
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The most important areas of skills that are needed and which are shortest in supply are science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, usually referred to as STEM. Sufficient qualified people in this area will enable us to solve the environmental, governmental and other problems that now challenge us. Human ingenuity appropriately developed has always provided the solutions that have enabled humanity to advance.
Where are the people we need going to come from? Bright young techies, engineers, etc., do not grow on trees. Nor are our high schools producing sufficient graduates willing and able to tackle STEM subjects at the post-secondary level.
Now there is a new incubator for this needed talent. It is the Vancouver Independent School for Science and Technology. (VISST)/ This independent high school is aimed at students curious and passionate about STEM and who desire greater challenges than public high schools can offer.
The program is certified by the B.C. Ministry of Education, so students cover everything they would in a public high school but also get a lot more. The Grades 8 and 9 curricula for stem-related subjects are condensed into one year, leaving time for more advanced work. Computer Science is taught starting in Grade 8. No need to wait until university. This and other advanced courses ensure an easy transition into post-secondary education.
Project-based learning, making connections between the different subjects and showing how the lessons learned are tied to real life, keep students curious and interested and helps ensure that school is fun. This is part of the philosophy of VISST.
There is at least one other factor that will make this school more appealing than most others to many teenagers. The school day starts at 10:00 a.m. It has long been known that most adolescents are not morning people, but there is little evidence that any allowance has been made for this fact.
Tuition is always an issue for parents considering independent schools. They will be happy to know that VISST has a flexible tuition policy.
Right now, there is an excellent opportunity to get a taste of what VISST offers. This spring and summer, camps are offered after school hours or during summer vacation. Most are for students aged 12 and up, but some are for people as young as eight. Topics include creating your own artificial intelligence (AI), developing video games, and how to succeed in STEM-related design competitions. There is also a week-long program on a sustainable world and the goals needed to achieve this, which can be combined with an active sports program. The courses are open with no prerequisites.
Parents would do well to consider one of these options. Not only would it be an enjoyable and enriching experience for their children, but it could also point them to a successful career in a STEM field from which they, their families and all of Canada could benefit.
Dr. Roslyn Kunin is a public speaker, consulting economist and senior fellow of the Canada West Foundation.
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