With a new school year, there are often many students who want to push their limits in learning with new goals. Often, this motivation for success drives them to choose an honours class to get the most out of their learning.
From year to year, Gleneagle offered honours classes, which were mainly in math and science. This year, only a grade 10 science honours class is being run. Students may wonder if Gleneagle might be falling behind with academics, in comparison to other high schools such as Pinetree or Port Moody secondary. However, this is not the case. In fact, it is quite the opposite.
The truth of honours classes is that they are not truly benefitting or providing all the students in school with the best academic opportunities. They are just being used as ways to show off to others how high of a grade one could get being in a more esteemed class.
“What an honours class is meant to do is to provide additional enrichment for students who want it. It is not meant to be something that’s prestigious, or looks better on a transcript,” said Scott Findley, English teacher.
Many times, with students signing up to an honours class, it was only for the recognition of getting good marks in a honours class. “When [students] were challenged with extra enhancements or extra enrichment, they didn’t want the extra enrichment, they just wanted a higher grade,” continued Findley.
There are students who do want more enhancement with their learning, but when a group of them are taken out of a regular class, other students are not able to have the same experiences.
“Those people who want the extra enrichment, having them spread out through all the classes, then helps elevate the classroom discussion and work,” said Findley. “It is then the job of the teacher, when [they] encounter that student who wants enrichment, to provide it for that individual learner.”
With all of this in consideration, it becomes a question if Gleneagle really needs honour courses, or if it is better for the remaining honours classes to be cancelled.
“We believe in excellence in all classes. I don’t really like the idea of only having something special for [an honours student] and not for the other classes,” said Mark Liao, science teacher. “However, from another perspective, it’s nice to offer the honours class to students who want to be surrounded by like-minded individuals.”
Sometimes, honour classes are used to attract students. They lure people to Gleneagle, to stop them from going to other schools, just because they have courses labelled with the word “honours.”
Students do think honours classes are beneficial, but they can also understand the reasoning of not offering them. Tiffany Ke, grade 10, explains how it is helpful to have honours classes, as it enables students to go deeper with their learning. “You also need to sign up for honours too, so the people in honours actually want to be there,” said Ke.
“I believe honors courses and accelerated classes are essential for nurturing students [who] may not fit in properly inside a ‘normal’ classroom,” said Otto Mao, grade 11. “[However], honours courses may be important, but only for a small niche. It would be better to have a more [academically] balanced school,” concluded Mao.
Honours classes may be a great opportunity for extra depth in a subject, but that’s what all classes should have.