Skip to main content

When I graduated from an Ontario high school in 1964, the percentage of students awarded an Ontario scholarship was probably about 5 per cent and you needed an 80 per cent average on eight out of nine courses in Grade 13. Earning an Ontario scholarship was a real accomplishment, and every successful student received a scholarship of $400 (real money in those days). A few years later, the provincial exit exams (known as "departmentals") were abolished, and the percentage of students receiving Ontario scholarships immediately began to rise.

By the eighties something like 40 per cent of students were getting Ontario Scholarships, and these days it's more than 60 per cent of students.

As a result of this grade inflation, the prestigious International Baccalaureate program is being forced to inflate its own grades to give its students a fair chance to gain admittance at the university of their choice and win scholarships. Without the discipline of external exit exams, individual schools can award any marks they wish and, as we have seen, they wish to award ever-higher marks.

Story continues below advertisement

With no external standards, it is impossible to compare the marks of students in different schools, and universities are flying blind when it comes to admissions. The result is that many woefully-unprepared students gain university admittance only to flunk out by Christmas or to see their first-year marks drop by more than 10 per cent. Not only is this hard on the students financially, it also crushes their spirits.

External exit exams yield more objective marks and discourage grade inflation. More importantly, they also enhance student achievement.

Professor John Bishop of Cornell University carried out a number of studies comparing the achievement of students in jurisdictions with external exit exams to the achievement of students in jurisdictions without external exit exams. In every case, Dr. Bishop found that the students in jurisdictions with external exit exams learned more.

In his research, he included a comparison of the achievement of students in Canadian provinces with external exit exams to the achievement of students in provinces without such exams. It turned out that Canadians are no exception – the students in provinces with external exit exams learn more. Similar comparisons between OECD countries found that the students in countries with external exit exams did better by approximately .15 of a standard deviation.

Virtually all rigorous courses have external exit exams – for example, the International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement courses, Most professions – lawyers, doctors, accountants and so forth require their students to pass an external exit exam before they can be certified to practice.

We live in a society that requires people to pass external examinations to demonstrate that they have mastered necessary skills and knowledge. You can't drive a car without passing an external examination. You can't become a hairdresser without passing an external examination. You can't become a Canadian citizen or an automobile mechanic or a dental hygienist without passing an external examination.

It's high time that high school students too were required to write an external examination before being allowed to graduate.

Story continues below advertisement

Malkin Dare is president of the Society for Quality Education.

Report an error
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter