Information identified as archived on the Web is for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It has not been altered or updated after the date of archiving. Web pages that are archived on the Web are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats on the "Contact Us" page.
Some schools provide some students with a school-leaving certificate. On graduation day, you see the students there like everyone else in their gown and mortar board but they don't get a diploma; they get a school-leaving certificate.
Although there is no public difference between the students receiving the school-leaving certificate and their peers, there are two significant private differences. The first is that the students leave with a sense that they weren't good enough to finish. The second is that there are some career paths that are closed to them because they don't have a high school diploma.
"I understand why schools [give out school-leaving certificates]," says Eileen Erasmus, "but I think we owe it to students to give them another option." At K'àlemi Dene School, students are offered the opportunity to do some courses on a continuing basis. They have not failed; they are just continuing—going at the pace they need to complete all the required work for that course.
"Our rule is we never give up on them," says Muriel Sawyer. As a consequence, students who miss long periods at N'Bissing Secondary School are not taken off the rolls. They can walk in and no one will ask them where they have been or why they missed school; they are simply accepted back. "And if they can't make it this year, we'll see them next year."
Erasmus uses three techniques to get students to continue.
- She focuses on them rather than their record: "You are not a failure; you are just continuing."
- She gets the student to buy in by degrees. The initial commitment is just to try it. Once students have stuck with something a while, they have more reason to buy in.
- She gives them the extra help they need to succeed. If the student struggled, that indicates that she should try something different. This extra support may have nothing to do with school: some students who are strong enough academically may be affected by other problems.
"Giving them extra help leaves the door open for them," says Erasmus.