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COMMENTARY: Student attendance policy will prepare young people for the work world

Those of us from the baby boomer generation can vividly recall that being late for school or absent from class without a legitimate excuse was grounds for punishment. Miss enough classes and the teacher did not hesitate from giving you a failing grade.  

There were consequences for your actions. The term in those days was truancy. Over time, the education system has taken a slippery slope in how it has been addressing the issue of absenteeism from the classroom.
As professor of education Paul Bennett of Saint Mary’s University wrote last year, “Missing school and skipping classes can become habit-forming. When students are repeatedly absent and there are no consequences, it becomes engrained in school culture.”
Professor Bennett contends that based on the statistics he’s seen, we have an absenteeism crisis in this province. Nova Scotia’s Education Minister Zach Churchill doesn’t go quite that far. Although, it is enough of a concern that, at long last, the province is now taking steps to address the problem with a tougher new policy. And for once, it is refreshing to see the government and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union working together on a policy they can both wholeheartedly endorse.
The new Provincial Student Attendance and Engagement Policy will take effect Oct. 1. Among the measures: Grade 10 to 12 students who miss 20 per cent of classtime for a given course may lose the credit for that course, even if they are getting a passing mark.
When the rate at which a student misses class or is late reaches 10 per cent, the school will contact the parent or guardian. Teachers will only provide students with the material they missed during their absences if a request is made by the principal.
Obviously, there can be legitimate underlying reasons why some young people are missing an inordinate amount of time from classes including mental health issues, substance abuse and a lack of family support. Hopefully the new tracking policy will better equip teachers and other support staff to intervene when they notice a student’s attendance is slipping.
As Education Minister Churchill has pointed out, the changes are designed to put more students in the classroom where they belong and it creates incentives to do that. It also serves to teach our young people that they have to be accountable and responsible for their actions and there are consequences when you can’t abide by those regulations. Too often those bad habits carry over later in life in the workplace and your employer is not likely to be as forgiving as your teacher or principal.

Geoff deGannes is the past chairman of the Tantramar Radio Society. His daily commentaries can be heard on 107.9 CFTA

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