by Dennis Page
What used to be a quasi-punishment for students who just missed out on passing their courses has become a increasingly popular way for students to get a jump on their education, as thousands of Surrey kids now voluntarily enrol in summer school each year.
In 2007, summer school fees were removed after to a B.C. Supreme Court ruling stated that all courses leading to Grade 12 graduation must be free of charge. That year, the number of enrolled students for summer courses in Surrey was approximately 2,200.
For 2012, the summer enrolment is 4,200. Surrey now has the second-largest summer learning program in the Lower Mainland.
“There has been steady growth in what we call full credit courses,” said Surrey School District Assistant Supt. Dave Paul.
Forty-hour, remedial summer school classes are meant to help students pass courses they did not during the regular school year. Full credit courses are a minimum of 80 hours, with the most popular classes being Grade 11 and 12 biology, physics, chemistry and English.
Paul said there are a number of reasons why more students are taking the opportunity to study over the summer break.
“Summer school has changed,” he said. “It used to be for the honour roll students, but now were are seeing students who want to ease their workload for the coming year or to free up time table space.”
Paul, who has taught summer school himself, said he can see the benefits firsthand when he visits schools during the summer.
The students become engaged learners and for those who may have dropped out or are returning to school, a six-week course they can do well at is a great confidence booster, Paul said. The students also benefit from being better prepared for the year ahead.
“I talk to the students and not one of them says ‘I’m giving up my summer’.”
Summer learning is not restricted to just high school students. Classes are offered for elementary kids as well. One of the most popular draws for that age group is the French immersion program.
For those concerned that the system could be abused as a free daycare, Paul said that doesn’t happen.
“Not in our district. If a parent has one student enrolled, they can not automatically send their other kids. They need to be referred.”
Summer school courses are free, although for many there is a $100 book deposit fee that is returned at the end of the class.