Friday, July 2, 2010

How Will Your Child Get Into University?

By Kathryn Harcourt

I've worked part-time for many years as a counsellor at the Victoria School District's Continuing Education Program. Over the years I've learned a few things about the education system that have helped me relax about being an "unschooling" family. And even families whose children are doing course work might find this interesting. There are many, many ways of approaching education and of formalizing education that are not generally known.

The Two Dogwoods

There are two graduation diplomas authorized by the Ministry of Education. One is the diploma that high school kids work on called the Secondary Dogwood Diploma. The other is the Adult Dogwood Diploma. The Adult Grad diploma is much shorter than the Secondary Diploma. One needs EN 12, a grade 11 Math course, and three grade 12 level courses to receive the Adult Dogwood diploma. If a student wants to go directly to UVic a few other things are required. There are a few rules with the Adult Dogwood. The student must be 19 to be on the program and the student must complete at least 3 courses after their 19th birthday.*

Credit for Experiential Learning

Here's where it gets interesting! The Ministry has opened its doors to other learning experience. If someone comes to us with documented experience that we can match up to learning outcomes for high school level courses, we can give the student credit for that experience. We give credit to many students for sports activities, art activities, work experience etc. etc. Often people come to us to complete their English 12 and Math 11 (these are the two most common prerequisites for Camosun courses) and we can complete their grad with other prior-learning credits.

Go Straight to College, Get Dual-Credit

Here's another trick. Students do their English and Math and go on to college. When they have a transcript of grades after the first semester or two, they bring that back to us and we give them credits to complete the high school grad using the course work they have done at post secondary. (This is called dual-credit). This works very well for people who don't want to spend a lot of time doing high school courses and just want to get on to college. The beauty of this option is that young people can do the English and Math before they are 19 and head to college. As long as they bring their transcripts back to us AFTER they are 19, we can give them credit for the Adult Graduation Diploma. This means that while they are in College they are also completing the Adult Dogwood Diploma.

This Adult Dogwood is not a lesser grad than the other, it is a full Ministry approved graduation. It is not a G.E.D.

Also, if a student goes to Camosun never having done any high school courses (students can get into Camosun by writing their assessment tests), we can still use the college transcript to give the Adult Grad just as long as there are college level English and Math courses and the student is over the age of 19.

So the important things to remember are:
  • Students don't need to be high school grads to go to college. They need the prerequisite high school courses or they need to pass the assessment.
  • We can use all sorts of learning, including college courses, to complete the Adult Grad Diploma. We mix and match this according to the students needs.
  • Many kids use the university transfer program at Camosum to get to UVic. Once again, they don't need to be graduated to get into this program, they just need the prerequisites for what they want to do. It is possible to go through to a doctorate level and never have a high school graduation. But why not apply for it anyway using the college transcripts. It's just bureaucracy!

Accessing Continuing Education

Each school district has a continuing education program for adults and young adults. At our school we have been accepting kids as young as 16 years old. I expect this is the same for the programs in the other districts as well. There are usually day and evening courses and students can take one course or have a full schedule. Courses might be self-paced or follow a classroom format. There is usually a registration fee, but no tuition fee for anyone who hasn't graduated from high school. The atmosphere in these schools tends not to be the same as a typical high school because the school caters to adults and young adults who have jobs and families.

We have had a number of homeschooled kids come to our school. A few years ago a 19 year old completely unschooled young man showed up. He began with grade 10 work and last year went directly to UVic to study sciences. Others have come to do English and Math and move on to college.

Free Access to High School Courses Regardless of Age

The provincial government is now funding high school level courses for all BC residents. In the past, anyone who had graduated from high school and was over the age of 19, had to pay a tuition fee of $395 a course. These courses are now tuition free. So if anyone out there wants to get ready for a college course, or wants to learn keyboarding or the Microsoft office packages, the cost will only be the $40 registration fee and the refundable $60 book deposit. You can access the Continuing Education website through

I hope this information may be helpful to some of you who are looking at post-secondary in the next few years. And I hope it helps those of you with younger children. Those of us who choose to be home-learners are always a little more anxious about how it's going to go with our children. For us, it's a grand experiment and it's nice to know that there are a lot of options. By the way, one of the teachers at our school said that the home learners might have gaps in what they know, but boy do they know how to learn! What more can we ask for!

Reprinted with Kathryn's kind permission.

*More information about the Adult Graduation Program.

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