How 60 million dollars will not save our Ontario pupils from academic failures?

(Ontario Education Minister)

50% of Ontario Grade 6 students failed this year’s provincial standard math qualification. It seems like a shocker in that how could the affluent and prosperous communities in Ontario failed half of its pupils at elementary school. Yet, barely understood the problem, the Ontario government impetuously decided to invest $60 millions in buying more resources and strictly reinforcing the presence of math and science teachers in the classroom, hoping this will help the students to pass. As lacking resources and teachers was ever the root cause for our failed students and in large the incompetent Canadian education system. Having problems is the norm of life, but having no solutions or worse wrong solutions is cul-de-sac of desperado. The action of the Ontario government is like a desperate zookeeper to strengthen the endangered pygmy marmoset by feeding him the elephant’s diet, you are not going to get an elephant sized monkey. Nor will we have more competent learners.

The key to understand this failure is to examine the pedagogy of our education system, instead of rummaging through what’s wrong with our students. Today, too many teachers teach students to how to pass exams, rather than mastering the materials. This strategy works only for a short term, because it is easy to duck feed students what they need to pass one test, one course, or a semester. The problem with duck feeding style teaching is that the “duck” will either puke out or poop out everything, meaning there is little or no retention in the end. Consequently, when students move onto the next subject, the next course, or the next semester, they do not feel prepared and have nothing to draw upon. The teaching for test scores focuses and cares only about the percentage gained, 60% passing, 75% B, 90% A, pays no attention to the 10%, 25%, and 40% lost or missing from our students. In essence, our students instead building the next stage of their lives on the things they know, they actually start with a foamy and bubbly foundation that is doomed to crumple.

Teaching for mastery is the norm of life. When we learn how to run, we start with crawling, then standing, and then walking, and it’s only when we master walking, we start running. In Taekwondo, you start your training with a white belt, you would remain as a white belt for as long as necessary, and only when you have mastered it you would move on to become a yellow belt and eventually to the black belt. Learning English, we begin with alphabets, and once we mastered the 26 alphabets, we move on to words, and then sentences, and it’s only when we mastered the grammars, we can attempt to write passages.

But, in education, we run to the opposite. We move students as cohorts, a pass of 60% or even worse in universities a D with 50% allows students to move onto the next course. So instead of building on what they know or retained, students in general accumulate more unknowns and misunderstandings, the result is falling behind and prematurely terminate one’s academic career. The structure of our education system resembles to terrible house building. When we build the house foundation, we rechon it to be 80% complete. Instead of perfecting it, we move on to build the first floor, and lucky us, we got 75% done. So move on again to build the second flood, and we got 65% done. So on and so forth until we reach the point of zero percent of confidence – the point of collapsing, costing time, money, or even lives. Why is this not OK in construction, but completely permissive when we are building our future selves?

My solution to this problem is to teach by mastery, not by test scores.

Students should not be moved as cohorts, they are all unique individuals. We need to provide personalized education. No horizontal comparison, but vertical comparison of past, now, and future. We ask students what they want to be in the next year, the next five years, or in the next decade. Students move on only when they completely comprehend and master the content. With mastery and continuous understanding of what they want, quickly student will develop a career perspective if not a life goal. From here, students only need to master what’s needed for her/his upcoming vocational educations and it’s only here that students can be diverted.

This practical education scheme based on mastery saves students’ time and money by eliminating the overspending on courses that they would never use nor benefit. Furthermore, this practice also breaks the trend of devaluation of education, meaning the bachelor degree will no longer be the new high school diploma. People who are earning their degrees are truly in position of needing them for their career aspiration, not just because everyone else is going to colleges.

One of the biggest critics of teaching for mastery is the complaint of lacking human resources to launch the personalized education. This is a complete lack of basic comprehension of what teaching for mastery and personalized education is. In teaching for mastery/personalized education, students needn’t to be paired with a teacher or teaching assistant in a one-on-one manner. Just like in personalized medicine, a doctor can still have many patients, but what makes it personalized is the retro fitted caring system, not the nomenclature. Thus, in personalized education, what matters is the communication between students and teachers. This communication is interpreted in two ways: one is the evidence-based learning; the other is the feedback-based teaching. In evidence-based learning, it is an opportunity for teachers to truly evaluate how well students have mastered the material. In feedback-based teaching, teachers inquire how students feel about their current learning experiences and what their next learning objectives are. The combination works as a synergism in which the evidence-based learning propels the feedback-based teaching, and in retrospect, the feedback-based teaching accentuates and focuses the evidence-based learning in the long run.

Of course, there are many other ideas and methodologies being touted with in order to fix our educational system with the $60 million. One of these is what Rob Furman referred to in Huffington Post as Service Learning. I am a true lover and believer of Service Learning, which is more commonly known as community based learning. There are many benefits of Service Learning, such as better absorption of knowledge, enhancing academic learning, reducing students’ stereotypes and preconceived notions. However, in this case where we are trying to address the poor math and science learning outcomes, fundraising, soup kitchen, and senior home visits are unlikely to do anything. In addition, one prominent danger of Service Learning is best summarized by Lori Pompa:

“If I “do for” you, “serve” you, “give to” you – that create a connection in which I have the resources, the abilities, the power, and you are on the receiving end. It can be – while benign in intent – ironically disempowering to the receiver, granting further power to the giver. Without meaning to, this process replicates the “have vs. have-not” paradigm that underlies many social problems.”

To improve the learning outcomes of our students, to nurture more competent and successful learners, and to encourage continuous learning, we need policy makers to be aware of, support, and reinforce the teaching for mastery, service learning, and many other great teaching practices, definitely NOT the teaching for test scores. Let’s make the next $ 60 millions dollars go where they belong.

 

Pulse 2016: All You Need to Know

“Mental health is tricky because its about really knowing who you are and being able to say that you need help in a surrounding where you think so many other people are stable.”-Sophia Shim

Needless to say, it takes a lot of courage to ask for help.

One of the most challenging parts of dealing with mental health is coming to terms with the fact that no one is invincible. On the outside, we may seem on top of everything, put together, ahead of the game and confident, but on the inside, no one knows how we truly are feeling. Coming to the realization that we must take care of our minds as much as we take care of our bodies is something that society has not come to terms with yet. We’ve seen the major changes that things like the introduction of the Health & Wellness centre at the University of Toronto, as well as the addition of Mental Health Awareness Month – and it’s about time. More and more students seem to catching on to the progress that the university has made. “On campus there are many options if you are in need of help, whether it be provided by your college or UofT as a whole”, says second year student, Sophia Shim.

One initiative, founded by Joanna Huang and Michael Bray of the University of Toronto aims to create a sense of community in the Toronto student population and encourage discussion about mental health in the GTA. Pulse, founded in 2013, has fundraised for three years to bring attention and create a positive space for discussing mental health in our community. “There is nothing I am more passionate about as I am mental health. It’s an issue that touches the lives of everybody, in one way or another.”, says Joanna, “The entire topic is muffled. It’s blanketed by a thick layer of societal stigma, and completely devalued. People don’t talk about it. I’ve struggled with my own mental health, and I find it very difficult to talk about. But I have no trouble talking about a sprained foot, so why should this be any different?”

Since it’s founding, Pulse has been partnered with Oolagen, a Toronto based organization who’s mission is to “listen, engage, assist, and empower young people to recognize their own strength and values”. Located on 65 Wellesley Street East, Oolagen provides counselling services for all ages and provide residential homes for people aged 14-18. Oolagen also provides on site school support in for three different Toronto high schools, giving students access to mental health services when they cannot otherwise. “[Ooolagen is] also planning to expand their services to cover university-aged youth”, says University of Toronto Pre-Medical co-president Alissa Mirochnitchenko. The Pre-Medical Society is partnered with Pulse as one of their main supporters on campus.

www.pulsetoronto,com
Pulse is on the 18th – get your tickets at www.pulsetoronto.com

Both Oolagen and Pulse are promoting mental health and discussion to Toronto, and have been gaining momentum ever since their start. “Pulse 2015 has raised over $2000.00 for Oolagen… This year, we will strive to surpass our previous earnings and continue to further increase awareness for mental health!” says Pre-Medical Society Co-President Victoria Malysmiuk. On March 18, Pulse and Oolagen are partnering again to bring an amazing fundraiser to Orchid Nightclub. As the campaign’s slogan states, “Good music. Good company. Good cause”, it’s sure to be a fun evening for an important charity. “We hope that our annual fundraiser, Pulse, remains a reminder for individuals to critically think about their own mental health and seek help if they feel out of balance.” Says Victoria and Alissa.“I think that my biggest goal this year was to make the discourse around mental health positive- we are all students and we all understand that university can be physically, mentally and emotionally draining at times. In my eyes, events like PULSE are important because it brings students together to have positive, happy experiences.”

Additional information about Pulse, Oolagen, and this year’s charity fundraiser can be found at the following sites:

www.pulsetoronto.com

https://www.facebook.com/events/1537362533224023/

http://oolagen.org/

We hope to see you on the 18th!

UofT Science Rendezvous is BACK!

SR2016

Are you ready for another year of FUN science activities? We’re back with more fun, more experiments, and more science!

Never heard of Science Rendezvous? You sure are missing out! Science Rendezvous is a FREE, Canada-wide science street festival aimed at highlighting and promoting science in all its aspects. Meet with world-class researchers, participate in hands-on experiments and activities, watch amazing demonstrations of the integration of science, architecture, and human ingenuity, and most of all, have fun while experiencing science in a whole new way! Want to learn more about us? Head to our newly designed webpage by our talented graphic designer, Science Rendezvous!

Our exec team has been working very hard since December to put this event together. Want to know the most updated information about our event? Like our Facebook Page! You’ll be the first to know what we have in line for you this year (and maybe we’ll post some teasers just for you).

We are also on Twitter and Instagram! Definitely follow/like us, because you never know, we might post some cool stuff that’s exclusively for our fans. You don’t want to miss out!

I hope you are as excited for this event as we are! Hope to see you on May 7th! Join us and RSVP NOW!

U of T Relay For Life 2016

0001-152483220

The most common misconception about Relay for Life is that it’s a physically intensive marathon only open to the strongest athletes for participation. Not true! The word “relay” also promotes the notion that a competitive race is being held and further strengthens this misconception. For those of you who have heard about Relay, you’ve probably experienced sentiments of hesitancy and confusion. Doubts may have raced through your mind as you began to question your physical ability and lack of exercise in your daily routine.

The truth is that Relay for Life is a non-running event. Running shoes and physical agility are not required to attend. The only challenging part about relay is staying up till 1am, but from 5pm-1am, strangers become a community as they unite together to fight an important a cause close to their hearts. Relay for Life is a fantastic fundraising event filled with enthusiastic individuals fighting for a cancer-free tomorrow. It’s a night to remember and honour those we have lost, to continue to raise funds for cancer research, and to celebrate with a full event line-up.

Cancer affects us all, whether it be a family member of our own or a friend who has been impacted. The impact of cancer is impossible to ignore, but on March 11th, University of Toronto’s Relay for Life Committee invites you all to participate in the event to fight back against cancer. The goal is to fundraise as much as possible, but for a registration fee of only 15 dollars, you’ll receive a t-shirt, luminary, and supply of food to keep you energized. A night of comedy, music, food, and open-mic awaits and all you need to do is spend 2 minutes online to register. You can bring your friends and create a team online or even join by yourself and we’ll handle forming a team for you! Any friends or family are welcome to participate as well as non-U of T students. If you can find some time to spare one Friday night, you can make a difference. All proceeds from the event will go towards the Canadian Cancer Society. Join us in participating in this event and help those who need it most.

Register or make a donation here, and find us on our Facebook event and cause page.

12489266_810040069123305_7325345110145524498_o

A LOVEly Valentine’s Day

forever-alone-valentines-day_gp_1104919

Alone on Valentine’s Day? Do not fear, for Aphrodite is here (jokes, it’s just me)! Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and while being with that special someone on this holiday is always great (if you have one), who better to spend the day of love with than your girl friends? These ladies are, after all, the ones who have been there and supported you since the beginning. What’s also amazing is the fact that we live in a vibrant and fabulous city with tons of potential for V-Day fun.

Firstly, what’s better than a night full of food and gossipping? Nothing! Toronto has a wide range of restaurants and pubs that have the perfect Valentine’s Day atmosphere. For those (like me) whose heart is dedicated to Hogwarts, there’s The Lockhart near Dufferin Station. For those (like me again) who like sweets, there’s the Nutella Bar! Another entertaining idea is going to a theatre production. Possibilities? Kinky Boots at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, The Winter’s Tale at the Coal Mine Theatre, Gaslight at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, and many more.

If your ideal girls day is one of relaxation, what better way to spend it than at the spa? Toronto has a variety of spots doing Valentine’s Day packages. Want to stay home instead? A DIY spa is easy to make.  Glamour has some great tips, including how to make a sugary scrub and tasty (healthy!) drinks. Another way to relax on Valentine’s Day is to watch a rom com. Whether at home or at the movies (How to Be Single is coming out on February 12th), binge-watching romantic comedies with your besties at a sleepover with popcorn and nail polish is a good idea any time of year.

Hope you feel the love! XOXO!

Free Entry to Grad School Information Fair!

Whether you’re ready to fast-track your career with a Masters or PhD or simply curious about what programs and opportunities are available, check out the QS World Grad School Tour returning to Toronto on January 30.

This event brings together the world’s top grad schools and gives you the opportunity to meet face-to-face with admissions directors, learn about the best graduate programs in the world, apply for exclusive scholarships, and attend complimentary info sessions from industry experts.

QS WGST_403x403_image Toronto_facebook_linkedin_newsletter

As a BlogUT reader, you’ll get in FREE (a savings of $15) by pre-registering online here and saying “BlogUT promo” at the door.

From expanding your network to increasing your lifetime earnings, graduate school can be a major game-changer for your career. The QS World Grad School Tour Toronto page has the full list of attending grad schools, complimentary seminars, and events agendas.

Event Date & Time:

Saturday, January 30 2016, 12:30pm-6pm, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, North Building 255, Front Street West  Level 200

Club Profile: University of Toronto Electronic Music Community (UTEMC)

IaE_kMg-

Image by UTEMC

Interested in electronic music? As per one commenter’s request, read on to learn more about U of T’s only electronic music community!

blogUT: How was the UTEMC created and what is its mission?

UTEMC: The UTEMC was created by two close friends who have been going to EDM events together forever. They decided to create a club where U of T electronic music fans could come together to meet other people and attend events together, as well as foster a culture of electronic music appreciation by fans from all over the three campuses. Our mission is to establish a group of like-minded individuals with an interest in electronic music and DJ events. Our goal to is set up a place for everybody to congregate and discuss events (both upcoming and past), new music, or just to meet somebody else with whom you might share a similar electronic music taste to. Throughout the year we’re going to be hosting events to bring people together, including in-house DJing events and workshops. Continue reading “Club Profile: University of Toronto Electronic Music Community (UTEMC)”