Archive | Education

Canadian high schools getting creative in push to raise graduation rates

Posted on 15 September 2016 by admin

Three retired guidance counsellors from an Ontario school board will be reaching out to hundreds of wayward high-school students this month, making phone calls as part of an inventive strategy to persuade dropouts to return to class.

Strengthening graduation rates is a priority across the country, and, as Canadian students head back to school this fall, educators are also focused on the thousands who have turned their backs on the classroom.

They may drop out because of personal issues or missed assignments. But the evidence is clear: More education helps students lead healthier and more productive lives. One study, by a former federally funded non-profit organization, estimated that high-school dropouts cost Canada’s social and criminal justice systems $1.3-billion each year.

“There is a real moral imperative here,” said Nick D’Avella, superintendent of education – student success, at the Toronto Catholic District School Board. “Kids need to have their high-school diploma in order to get into a whole variety of postsecondary programs.”

His school board’s approach to getting students to complete their high-school diploma involves a team of three retired guidance counsellors who provide a personal touch. They each receive a list of students who did not register for school but are close to meeting their graduation requirements. The counsellors are determined to bring these students back to school – they call in the morning and later in the evening, refusing to settle for voice-mail.

Zavina Kheir, one of the three retired guidance counsellors who will be setting aside time each day to go through their lists, has been frustrated at times in the past, especially when phone numbers and addresses have changed.

But when she does reach a student, Ms. Kheir gives them options to return, which could involve a night-school class or a co-op program.

“It’s a challenge, but when you get them to do something you want them to do, the reward is unbelievable,” she said. “I feel good saving students.”

Since the initiative began at the school board six years ago, the counsellors have been able to bring 1,178, of the roughly 1,700 students contacted, back to school. Half of those students received their high-school diplomas.

Graduation rates across the country have generally been climbing. In Ontario, 85 per cent of students graduate within five years, in part because of specific grants from the province such as the one that paid for the Toronto Catholic board’s initiative.

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Education system helping create skills mismatch

Posted on 15 June 2016 by admin

Economist Craig Alexander thinks high school guidance programs are ill-prepared to help students make informed career decisions.

“God, there’s a lot.”

That’s economist Craig Alexander exhaling deeply in an interview about the labour market. It’s not an expression of exasperation about the latest labour force survey from Statistics Canada, in which we see a relatively flat job market and the ongoing structural adjustment to lower energy prices. But the substantive issues that lie behind the changing profile of the labour market and our readiness for the future demands of work.

Education, by example.

“The global labour market is evolving quicker than our institutions seem to be able to change,” Alexander says. “So as the labour market changes and skills demand change, the education system doesn’t actually change the way it’s delivering that education, or the outcomes our kids are experiencing. As a consequence you fall behind and you fall behind and you fall behind until there’s a feeling that there’s a crisis that needs to be dealt with and you get some policy action.”

Alexander is vice-president of economic analysis at the C. D. Howe Institute and ex of the TD Bank, so he’s lived the life of monitoring financial market responses to statistical data. But today he’s wondering about high school guidance programs that appear ill-prepared to help students make informed decisions as to what programs to take in university. Parents about to send their daughters and sons off to their first-ever university experience this fall can no doubt relate.

“I think most kids take programs based on what they’re interested in, not on what employment opportunities are going to look like on the other side of the degree. That contributes to the skills mismatch,” he says.

Alexander has worked up a chart, as you might expect. He charted graduate rates by discipline — “How many students are going through the university system and graduating with a general arts degree and what percentage are coming out with degrees in engineering, math, sciences. If you compare the graph of what kids are studying in university with a graph that shows employment rates by graduation, they’re inverted.”

Those who have followed labour force mismatches have known this for some time.

“I think [the education system] has fallen very far behind where we need it to be for the labour force in the 21st century,” Alexander continues. “Their structures and their programs are often delivering the experience that students needed in, for example, the Nineties, not what they need today.”

We could talk about financial literacy for days. More than four years ago Ontario’s Ministry of Education adopted a strategy of weaving financial literacy into the curricula for students in Grades 4 to 12. Entrepreneurism — a vital focus, in Alexander’s view — is knitted into the introduction to business courses in high school, electives in Grades 9 and 10, and standalone courses in Grades 11 and 12.

“We need to encourage more entrepreneurism among our young people,” Alexander says. And offer expanded apprenticeships and co-op programs. And place an enhanced focus on literacy. “If you don’t have strong literacy and numeracy skills going in to university, you often won’t have them when you come out of university. I think employers have been very clear about the fact that they want work ready employees.”

“There are a lot of things we should be doing to improve the education system to help our students be better prepared before they even go into the post-secondary system,” he says. “And once they get into the post-secondary system we need that system to start delivering a better outcome in terms of delivering young people to the labour market who are going to have good outcomes.”

Alexander is conscious of the fact that he has gone quite negative on the education system throughout the interview. “Education in Canada compared to other countries is quite good, it’s just that we could be doing more. We have a skilled work force. But we have the possibility to make it even more skilled and more productive.”

The nature of the economy is changing. The changes are structural and long term. “The world is moving very rapidly,” Alexander says. “Unless we change the way we do things we are going to end up with the same outcome.”


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There’s just one problem with French immersion … well, several, actually

Posted on 09 June 2016 by admin


Nothing is cuter than tiny tots speaking French. Their accents are impeccable. Their vocabulary is much larger than mine. I took French for years, and I can barely order lunch. These children are formidable! No wonder Canadian parents have gone crazy for French immersion. Who wouldn’t want to raise a bilingual kid? Across the country, demand is soaring through the roof. Schools are scrambling to cope. In some districts, 25 per cent of the primary-school kids are in French immersion. School officials say there would be far more if they could only find more teachers.

Just one problem. Well, several, actually. For many parents, French immersion is a way to game the system. It filters out the kids with behavioural problems and special needs, along with the low achievers. In short, it’s a form of streaming. Most French-immersion students are from affluent, high-achieving families that work hard to give their children an edge. And who can blame them? It sure beats forking over $27,220 a year for the Toronto French School (and that’s for kindergarten).

Unfortunately, this selfish but entirely natural parental tendency is at total odds with the gospel of the Canadian school system, which strives to be equal and inclusive above all else. For schools, “streaming” is a dirty word. We are constantly assured that high-performing kids actually do better in classrooms that include all those other kids. And vice versa.

This tension between the school boards and the parents has created an impossible dilemma. Some schools’ English-language programs are being hollowed out. In dual-track schools, they now have a much bigger ratio of disadvantaged, behavioural, etc. kids than the French programs do. The schools are being accused of entrenching inequality. As one immersion advocate told Maclean’s, “If we’re going to offer this program, how can we justify it if we don’t give kids – from whatever background – the tools they need to succeed?”

What to do? Some school boards (Ottawa-Carleton, for example) havedecided that the answer is to give everybody a little bit of French immersion in kindergarten, to see if they like it. The students will be only semi-immersed. But at least everyone will be equal.

French immersion was born during the age of Trudeau the First. The vision was of a bilingual nation, where citizens would be fluent in a second language. It was both inspiring and patriotic – part of a nation-building effort that would bind us together and broaden our horizons. Most Europeans manage to speak at least two languages, so why can’t we? On top of that, research seemed to show that speaking a second language has significant cognitive benefits. Bilingualism makes you smarter! Today, the idea of French immersion as a magic smart pill is virtually unquestioned.

Sadly, there’s not the slightest shred of evidence that French immersion has accomplished any of its lofty goals. After 40 years of ever-expanding immersion programs, the percentage of Canadians who can speak both official languages has dropped. At two of the Greater Toronto Area’s largest school boards, half of French-immersion students bail out by Grade 8. By the time they graduate high school, only 10 per cent achieve proficiency in French (which is not the same as fluency).

The reasons for this miserable success rate are no mystery. Their entire world outside the classroom immerses kids in English. They play in English. They live in English. Everybody they know speaks English. If you want them to be bilingual, you’d better take them to live in France or Quebec – or at least make sure you’re married to a French speaker.

The downsides to French immersion, though seldom mentioned, are also real. Kids who struggle with English will also struggle with French – and who needs that? Dual-track schools create separation, not cohesion – immigrant kids (who normally do not enroll) against Canadian-born ones, girls against boys (many of whom drop out). For an unvarnished account from a parent, read what Emma Waverman (who also writes a cooking column for The Globe) had to say in Today’s Parent. Among her discoveries: The programs aren’t very good. In the early years, they focus on rote memorization of vocabulary lists. Brighter kids are likely to get bored. Not all the teachers are terrific either.

Yet the dream lives on. As enrolment shrinks, school boards are desperate to keep parents happy so that they don’t defect from the public system. Like all-day kindergarten – which was also supposed to make kids smarter – French immersion turns out to be too good to be true. But too many people have too much invested in it to say so.

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Sorry, no sex-ed, please — we’re Canadians: Cohn

Posted on 18 May 2016 by admin

Straddling the divide between public policy and private parts, a Toronto school has found the middle way.

We take you now to Thorncliffe Park School — Ground Zero for the parental protests that erupted last year over modernization of a curriculum two decades out of date. Keen to ward off yet more class boycotts, the school’s principal has come up with a classic Canadian compromise: Sanitized sex education that covers up the explicit bits.

The school opted to excise any reference to penis and vagina for Grade 1 students whose parents couldn’t countenance such words.

Is this yet another example of “reasonable accommodation” gone awry, further evidence ofculture wars erupting around us? Or did an elementary school do the right thing for wrongheaded parents?

Let’s consider the first rule of sex education: Slow down, because in a world of relentless sexting and texting, we need more contexting.

All the evidence from other jurisdictions shows this curriculum was carefully thought through, not least the discussion of body parts for first graders. Teaching students anatomically correct terms — enabling them to accurately describe any inappropriate touching or sexual abuse by adults — benefits police and other investigating authorities trying to combat the scourge of child abuse.

Explicit references to body parts help students protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted illnesses. It’s important to explain human rights and homosexuality at the appropriate age, and for teachers to have answers when students ask about touchy matters like masturbation.

Persuading some parents of these facts is easier said than done. But even if you can’t win them over, finding a way to reach — and teach — students is the ultimate goal.

The most maddening and exasperating aspect of last year’s protests was the attempt by a minority of people — motivated by religion, culture or ideology — to impose their views on the vast majority of parents who support modern sex education for their children. The protesters argued, absurdly and selfishly, that if they disliked the sex-ed curriculum, everyone else’s children should also be deprived of that education.

It was an utterly anti-democratic example of the intolerance (and tyranny) of the minority imposing its unsupported views on everyone else — aided by some opposition Progressive Conservative MPPs and abetted by their current leader, Patrick Brown. What made their anti-sex-ed campaign even more objectionable was that their protests were so pointless — for the simple reason that anyone with a religious objection could easily opt out, taking their child out of class.

Don’t like it, don’t take it. But don’t take away my child’s right to a modern education.

Despite that opt-out option, hundreds of parents escalated their protests by withdrawing their children from all classes last spring (not just sex-ed instruction). Many of them also delayed enrolment in the public school system last September to ratchet up the pressure.

Against that backdrop of disruptive protests, Thorncliffe Park principal Jeff Crane undertook extensive consultations. He proposed an alternative class for those first graders whose parents refused to let them see or hear any explicit references to their anatomy — exposing them, at least, to the rest of the health and physical education curriculum.

Did he go too far in acquiescing to unreasonable demands?

In sex-ed, as in sex itself, the perfect is the enemy of the good. Compromise can be a good thing if it minimizes the harm that might come from depriving first graders of any sex-ed at all should their parents persist with boycotts.

The religious objectors had the right, under our existing system, to deprive their children of essential learning. Now, these students will at least benefit from the rest of the curriculum, notwithstanding their parents’ obstinacy.

That’s better than the alternative of an outright boycott. The key point is that all other students, in this school and across the province, will still get unexpurgated sex-ed classes that don’t dilute the overall curriculum.

A child’s interests should always come first. In this case, a principled principal at Thorncliffe Park has shown us that “reasonable accommodation” with unreasonable parents can produce a rational compromise that serves society.

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Young grads need to brush up on 3 R’s, employers say

Posted on 25 February 2016 by admin

Executives in surveys said they want to hire people with “essential skills” — communicating, problem-solving, critical thinking, teamwork — yet this is where they see students being deficient.

It’s a familiar corporate rant: Young grads today can’t write worth beans, are weak in math and lack the analytical chops to work their way through the problems we’ll need them to solve.

Executives in 20 recent employer surveys said they look to hire people with so-called “soft” or “essential skills” — communicating, problem-solving, critical thinking, teamwork — “yet this is where they see students being deficient,” said Harvey Weingarten, president of Ontario’s higher education think-tank.

If these skills are so important, it’s time to actually test students for them when they enter university or college, and again when they leave, said Weingarten, whose Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) advises Queen’s Park on higher learning.

In a groundbreaking pilot project this fall — the first of its kind in Canada — HEQCO is looking for several colleges and universities to submit their incoming students to a 90-minute online test of literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills, and give the same test to the graduating class as they leave.

It won’t be required to get in or to graduate, but results of the globally recognized Education and Skills Online assessment from the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development “will show quite simply whether students have these skills or not,” said Weingarten.

If the tool proves useful enough for Queen’s Park to want to have all institutions use it in future, Ontario would become the first jurisdiction in North America to give entrance and exit exams in the 3 R’s to all post-secondary students.

“We don’t want to test because we’re interested in ranking institutions. But students spend time and money on post-secondary education, and the public invests in it, so we need to know if students are acquiring the skills that are going to serve them well,” said Weingarten, former president of the University of Calgary. “If we’re not doing as well as we’d like, then we need to do a better job.”

It’s not clear who’s to blame for the shortfall in these basics. Some accuse schools of dropping their standards. Others point to a distracted screen-crazed culture. Still others suggest helicopter parents kept a generation from learning how to solve problems themselves.

Whatever the cause, the complaints are common.

“A significant minority of students are graduating from post-secondary education with a shortfall of the skills they need — in core literacy and numeracy and problem-solving,” said Michael Bloom, the Conference Board of Canada’s vice-president of industry and strategy. “And if they have trouble using language and numbers, they’ll have trouble operating in real time at the level they should.”

Still, many universities and colleges think things are fine.

A landmark 2015 study called Youth In Transition: Bridging Canada’s Path from Education to Employment, showed a staggering 83 per cent of educational institutions believe their grads are equipped for the workforce, whereas a mere 34 per cent of employers agreed, and just 44 per cent of students themselves.

“You won’t find a college or university administrator who doesn’t claim ‘We enhance these (soft) skills’ but the story gets kind of lame if you don’t have any evidence,” said Greg Moran, HEQCO’s director of special projects and former provost at Western University. “You can wave your hands and cite anecdotes (about how great your students are) but if these are the skills universities are looking for, people are going to want us to be able to demonstrate it.”

The conference Board’s Michael Bloom said the idea of entrance and exit tests of literacy, numeracy and problem-solving has value.

“Sampling students at the front end would be useful to give us an idea of the state of people coming in, and offer immediate, focused help to get the student up to standard,” said Bloom. “It also would give professors a greater consciousness about the importance of these transferable skills, and students could use it at the end of their degree to show employers the skills they have.”

David Lindsay, president of the Council of Ontario Universities, said assessing soft skills could be useful but warns against using one test as a be-all and end-all.

“You have to be clear about what you mean by being ‘prepared for the workplace.’ A forestry graduate might not have learned about drone technology in school, but does that mean they’re not prepared for a job in the sector, which now uses drones to check forest fires and insects and floods? Or do you want a graduate with the cognitive skills to figure that out on the job?”

Community colleges don’t oppose the idea of testing for essential skills, said Linda Franklin, president of Colleges Ontario, because “employers have had concerns about these skills for a long time, so if we have that data, there may be things we can do to improve.”

Even students welcome a yardstick that would show which universities do a good job of teasing out these skills, said Spencer Nestico-Semianiw, president of the Ontario Undergraduate Students’ Alliance.

“Students say they don’t always see an emphasis on those skills of teamwork, communication, confidence, critical thinking, so if we can have something that communicates this to employers — that would help.”

Said Weingarten: “Universities and colleges boast that their grads are great thinkers, great researchers — but I know a lot of people who think that’s not true. And I know a lot of people who think it is true. I don’t actually know what’s true, but I do know how to find out, and that’s to measure.”

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Schools are not powerless to address racial disparities

Posted on 21 January 2016 by admin

By: Sachin Maharaj


When Donna Quan resigned as director of the Toronto District School Board to become an adjunct professor at York University’s faculty of education, many viewed the new position as nothing more than a sinecure provided by Ontario’s Ministry of Education in order to put an end to her tumultuous tenure as head of Canada’s largest school board. After all, she will continue to collect an annual salary of $272,000, which is substantially larger than any education professor could ever hope to make. However, the project that Quan is tasked with, assessing the feasibility of requiring all of Ontario’s school boards to collect detailed demographic data on its students, could signal a major shift in the way we approach education in this province.

Debates about whether we should collect information on the socioeconomic status and race of students have raged inside the Ministry of Education for years. Some argue that the government’s policies are good for all students, and amidst our high performance on international tests and ever increasing graduation rates, there isn’t really a pressing need for such information. Meanwhile others note that large disparities still exist between children from different racial backgrounds, and that family income continues to be the largest predictor of student achievement.

One thing we do know for sure is that students in our school systems are not all given the same opportunities. Data from the TDSB, one of the only boards to collect detailed demographic information, has shown that students from lower income neighbourhoods are much less likely to be identified as gifted, more likely to be identified as having a learning disability, and more than twice as likely to be placed in applied-level classes. Race also plays a major role in how schools treat children. That is why black students represent 13 per cent of the TDSB population, but only 3 per cent of its students identified as gifted. Meanwhile white students, who make up 32 per cent of the TDSB population, comprise more than half of its students identified as gifted.

While some have disputed the role that racism plays in such inequitable treatment, we have empirical evidence that should put such notions to rest. A 2015 study by researchers at Stanford University gave teachers copies of student records with names that had been changed to be either stereotypically black or white sounding. When teachers saw records with black sounding names, they were much more likely to recommend that those students be suspended from school than when they saw identical records with white sounding names.

Given this reality, having demographic information on our students at least gives us the opportunity to address these glaring inequities. But not everyone thinks this is even a real problem. A Toronto teacher who teaches in a low income neighbourhood once told me that the reason black students and those from low income households are disproportionately placed in lower academic streams is due to “the conditions of their upbringing.” It is this culture of resignation which can be the downside of school systems having an excessive focus on poverty and race.

We see this attitude in some parts of the United States, which has collected detailed race and income statistics for years. Diane Ravitch, an education historian and one of the most prominent voices in American education, demonstrated this when she told a 2011 rally of teachers in Washington, D.C. that “our problem is poverty, not schools.” It was no coincidence then that when Time magazine journalist Amanda Ripley later interviewed D.C. teachers, many stressed all of the disadvantages that their students faced. One teacher relayed the common complaint to Ripley that “parents on this side don’t have the know-how to raise their children.” The result of this type of attitude was that at the end of the school year, students in this teacher’s class fell further behind grade level in reading than when they started, and performed significantly worse than other low-income students in D.C. who had started the year at the exact same reading level.

On balance, it is a good thing to have more detailed information on the students we serve. Burying our heads in the sand and pretending that problems don’t exist is clearly not the solution. But as we better understand the racial backgrounds of our students and the issues of poverty they face, we should be careful to not let that lead to a culture of fatalism and low expectations in our schools.

Sachin Maharaj is a PhD student in educational policy at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto and is a teacher in the Toronto District School Board.


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Federal Government Considers Letting Students To Use Travel Points To Repay Loans

Posted on 04 November 2015 by admin

Graduates who owe the federal government money on their student loans could soon have the chance to use travel reward points to help pay their debts.

The previous Conservative government gave the political go-ahead in February for Employment and Social Development Canada to work out a deal with Higher Ed Points, a private company that lets registered students put reward points like those collected through Aeroplan towards tuition and loan payments.

The program is in place in two provinces — Alberta and Ontario — but a move to the federal level would reach the hundreds of thousands more students as the majority of student assistance flows through the Canada Student Loans program.

The company told federal officials that up to 820,000 student loan recipients who still owe the government money could end up paying off part of their debt with Aeroplan points. For instance, 35,000 Aeroplan points would repay $250 of unpaid debt.

Officials viewed the number with some skepticism, based on the briefing note, telling then-employment minister Pierre Poilievre “there is little data available about how students are using Higher Ed Points for student loan repayment.”

It seemed like a win-win for the federal government: the government could collect on outstanding debts and do so at no extra cost to taxpayers, officials told Poilievre.

“From a government perspective, this provides a no-cost method of repayment and another source of debt reduction to help students pay down their student loans more quickly,” reads the briefing note, a copy of which The Canadian Press obtained through the Access to Information Act.

Suzanne Tyson, founder of Higher Ed Points, said the only thing standing in the way of a federal deal was having the company translate their website so it could be offered in both official languages. She said the French website should be ready no later than the first quarter of 2016.

Once that happens, the two sides would have to negotiate an agreement because there is no official deal in place and it would be up to the incoming Liberal minister in charge, whomever that may be, to approve an official agreement.

Employment and Social Development Canada would only say that there is no deal in place and it was exploring options with Higher Ed Points. The department didn’t say why it couldn’t sign a deal with the company.

The amount of student debt owing to the federal government has topped $16 billion, according to government documents, with millions written off every year for a number of reasons: a debtor may file for bankruptcy, the debt itself passes a six-year legal limit on collection, or the debtor can’t be found.

Two years ago, the federal government wrote off more than $300 million.

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International students take legal action against Niagara College for $50M

Posted on 20 August 2015 by admin


Students allege the school’s distance learning program did not, as promised, qualify them for three-year work permits after graduation.

  Former international students at Niagara College are launching a class-action lawsuit against the school and seeking more than $50 million in damages after a mostly online program left some foreign students ineligible to work in Canada after graduation.

Anish Goyal and Chintan Zankat are taking legal action on behalf of a host of affected classmates after they enrolled in a four-month program allegedly designed to help them qualify for “coveted” post-graduate, three-year work permits.

“We’ve alleged that Niagara College came up with a program for international students designed to allow them to qualify for a three-year work permit, which they coveted, but failed to properly design it. And, as a result, their graduates are not qualifying for the work permits and are essentially being kicked out of Canada,” said Darcy Merkur, the graduates’ lawyer.

None of the allegations in the group’s statement of claim has been proven in court.

Niagara College confirmed it received notice of the legal action.

“We have received a claim and are consulting legal counsel. It is too early to make any other comments at this time,” said Susan McConnell, a spokesperson for Niagara College, in an email to the Star.

Merkur is working on the case with a group of immigration lawyers who represent about 100 of the 500 international students he said could be affected by the work permit rejections.

The statement of claim alleges the school and its representatives led students to believe that by completing the mostly online general arts and science diploma transfer program, after completing one year of graduate or post-graduate schooling in Canada, they would qualify for a three-year work permit.

But the students later learned the Niagara College program didn’t meet Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s work permit requirements because the program was considered distance learning.

It’s something Niagara College “knew or ought to have known” before it allegedly “promised” the program’s foreign graduates would qualify for the work permit, according to the statement of claim.

“By pushing the course online, they’ve disqualified their graduates from qualifying,” Merkur said.

The document also alleges Niagara College advised its students that the online portion of the program wouldn’t make it a distance learning program, which was, the plaintiffs allege, “misleading.”

The ordeal has been enormously frustrating for Goyal, 26, who expects his work permit application will be denied just like Zankat’s. He had planned to send money back home to support his parents while he worked in IT project management.

“I will lose my career here,” Goyal said. “I’ve invested almost two years of my life in Canada and now I’m being forced to go back home without getting what I was promised.”

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Posted on 05 August 2015 by admin


It’s often been said that honesty is the best policy but when it comes to managing your career, some lies may actually help you land your next job.

“It’s about downplaying the negative, accentuating the positive and leaving out things that could potentially be red flags to potential employers,” says Peter Harris, editor-in-chief of Workopolis, the country’s largest online job site.

Of course, you should never lie about technical abilities you lack that are required to do the job. “There’s no point getting hired for a job you can’t do.” Nor should you lie about educational or professional qualifications you haven’t earned.

But there are some lies you may need to tell in order to get hired for a new job, Harris maintains, including the following:

Lies of omission

If you worked somewhere for a very short period time, if the job ended badly or you burned bridges on your way out, leave it off your resumé. “Your resumé doesn’t have to include everything you’ve ever done in your career,” Harris says.

“It’s a marketing document to get you an interview for the job you want so list the stuff that’s positive and relevant to that job.” Remember, a potential employer may choose to contact all employers listed on your resumé, even those not included in your references.

Interests and hobbies

It’s not necessary to list interests on your resumé but if you’re going to use that space, make them relevant to the posting. If you see pictures of employees participating in a charitable event on the company website, consider including an interest in charitable work on your resumé.

“But if everything on the company website about the corporate culture is stuff you can’t stand, you also don’t want to lie your way into a job you won’t like,” Harris says. “You want to make yourself look like a good fit, but you have to be somewhat of a good fit because you’re not going to succeed if you’re not happy.”

Your greatest weakness

Don’t shine the spotlight on your inability to accept criticism or other glaringly negative trait. Rather, point to an “innocuous weakness” not relevant to the job and talk about how you’re working to remedy it.

For example: “I sometimes get nervous presenting to large groups of people; however I’ve joined Toastmasters and am working on my public-speaking skills.”

“That shows you’re self-aware and proactive,” says Harris.

Your honest opinion of a previous boss

By far the most common reason people leave their jobs is because of their relationship with their manager, but that’s not something a savvy job seeker wants to share with a potential future boss.

Accentuate the positive: “My boss was a great leader and I learned a lot from working with him.”

“Badmouthing a previous boss will leave a prospective boss wondering what you’re going to say about him next,” says Harris.

Team dynamics

Nobody likes everybody and there are “difficult personalities” at every organization, but spilling secrets sounds negative and may even leave a prospective employee wondering if you may have been the problem. Simply say: “I had the privilege of working with a great team.”

Reason for leaving a previous job

Being laid off because of cutbacks is one thing but leaving because of a personality conflict, you are bored, don’t get paid enough or because the commute is unbearable is another. Instead, Harris suggests saying: “I’m perfectly happy with my current job and doing great, but this opportunity came along and is the career goal I’ve been working towards.”

“That’s what employers want to hear,” he says. “They want to hire someone who is passionate about working for them specifically rather than just trying to land a gig.”

 Common half-truths, exaggerations, lies

According to a recruitment office survey of Australian employers, 82% of respondents believed job candidates lied or exaggerated their skills and experience on their LinkedIn profiles. Also according to the survey:

67% believed job titles and responsibilities in previous roles are the most unreliable pieces of information

15% believed periods of unemployment to be untrustworthy

12% ranked education and qualifications as the most likely sections to be fabricated or embellished

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Toronto’s top students give so-so grade to studying

Posted on 22 July 2015 by admin


They love learning — but studying? Not so much.

The Toronto public board’s top graduating students — four this year, each earning a 99.5 per cent average — credited a thirst for knowledge over anything else for their near-perfect success.

“I don’t think studying extensively is the way to get good marks — I think you just need to stop memorizing things and really understand the concepts,” said Mishael Nuh, who just graduated from the technology program SATEC at Scarborough’s W.A. Porter Collegiate.

“. . . Memorizing takes so much effort, and honestly I suck at memorization. I can’t remember the list of stuff my mom tells me to buy at the grocery.”

Fellow brainiac Elias Hess-Childs, who attended the TOPS science-enrichment program at Bloor Collegiate, agreed, saying said for him it’s important to “follow your passion for knowledge, and not your passion for success. And always maintain your integrity — there is nothing more important than your integrity.”

Top grad Albert Loa of East York Collegiate was also at Friday’s meet-the-press event held at W.A. Porter for the students, their parents and principals. Absent was Sarah Tang of Martingrove Collegiate, a visa student from China, who is travelling overseas.

Both Nuh and Loa will be studying engineering science at the University of Toronto this fall, and Hess-Childs is headed to McGill for math and physics.

Hess-Childs, who played defence on the school’s varsity hockey team and was a student leader at Bloor, said he’d like to become a professor, researching and teaching.

Loa, who plays basketball, soccer and tennis — he notes he played, and won, a tennis match this month with his math teacher — is also a fan of anime, and his final Grade 12 English project was a video and script entitled Pokemon Hamlet.

Nuh, a cello player, did a lot of volunteer work and fundraising at his school and Kym Stadnyk, one of the vice-principals at Porter, noted he spent a lot of his free time tutoring fellow students.

“He is a lovely young man who is exceptionally well-rounded,” she said of the 17-year-old. “He gave up every lunch hour to help people . . . the tech teacher confirmed that he helped at least 50 students get through their high school program.”

His family, who emigrated from Indonesia 10 years ago, said he is self-disciplined, but he doesn’t forget to have fun and play a lot of video games as well.

Nuh joked that he helped his classmates with school “because you don’t want to make enemies . . . you are spending four years with these people and you want them to be on your good side.”

Seriously, he added, he enjoyed the extra work “because you learn more by teaching people — you need to grasp a concept really well so you can answer questions.”

The Toronto Catholic board’s top scholar was Konrad von Eppinghoven, who earned a 100 per cent average in his courses.

The Michael Power/St. Joseph Catholic High School student is headed to the London School of Economics in September.

Fun facts about Toronto’s top grads:

 Elias Hess-Childs: “He likes to talk — a lot,” says his mom, Katherine Childs. “It’s exhausting, but also stimulating.”

“Always intellectual,” he adds, jokingly.

“With high energy,” she also says. “He always talked a lot; even as an infant, before he was speaking, he was noisy. We used to laugh, we always knew where he was in the store because we could hear him.”

 Albert Loa: “I never study. If I study at all, it’s the day before … if you take the initiative to learn, then generally you reduce the need to study. In high school math, my lowest and highest mark was 100. I never studied for the tests.”

 Mishael Nuh: “Right now, I’m in a Margaret Atwood reading spree, going through her entire collection … I kind of put her off for quite a long time. She’s really famous, but I heard some things from some of my friends that didn’t really like her books. Then, in Grade 12, I had to do a study on Oryx and Crake. I love the book; it’s amazing and I reread it three times during the entire grade.”


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