It makes no sense that while our province is experiencing a white-hot economy, with unprecedented growth and demand for skilled labour, that we continue to fail our youth both in our schools and in our communities.
It does make sense that our government should make a concerted effort to live within our provincial means. However, it makes no sense to cut funding to Adult Basic Education (ABE) programs that help disadvantaged individuals achieve a high school diploma.
Many of these ABE participants are most likely students who dropped out of high school during the 2007-2008 school year.
According to statistics provided by the Department of Education, 1,682 students dropped out of high school throughout our province in 2007-2008.
Fifty-six per cent of these students were from schools within the Eastern School District.
When some of these students were asked to provide reasons why they dropped out of high school, 44 per cent of respondents said it was school related.
Another staggering statistic (Department of Education statistics, 2009) is that 47 per cent of youth who are residents of low-income housing leave school before graduation.
Our K-12 system failed to meet their educational needs while they were in our schools. In spite of all the rhetoric about providing students with an “inclusive” education, these students were “excluded” from our high schools.
It makes no sense to cut community-based programs that support the same individuals that we failed to help while they were in our schools.
The personal, social and economic consequences of these young people not achieving a high school education are well documented by the Canadian Council on Learning: reduced lifetime earnings, poor health, increased unemployment, substance abuse, early
child bearing, economic dependency, reduced quality of life, increased incidence of marital instability, delinquency and crime.
Correctional Services Canada reports that non-graduates represent 34 per cent of the general population but make up 74 per cent of the prison population.
Public Safety Canada in 2009-2010 estimated the annual average cost of keeping a male incarcerated was $113,974.
It makes no sense to continue to fail our youth.
Dropping out of school is not a single event but a process that takes place over a long period of time.
Individuals who are at risk of not attaining a high school diploma need relevant educational programs, increased support and encouragement, both while they are in the K-12 system and after they leave.
It just makes personal, economic and social sense.