New data from the B.C. Ministry of Education show the average high-school completion rate continued its slow improvement last year, with 84 per cent of students getting their diplomas within six years.
The average completion rate has climbed by more than five per cent in the past 10 years, despite the teacher strikes and political turmoil that have disrupted B.C.’s public education system during that time.
Completion rates in School District 54 (Bulkley Valley) were slightly lower than the provincial average in 2016-17, with 79.1 per cent of students getting their diplomas within six years.
According to School District 54 superintendent of schools Chris van der Mark, the district’s Aboriginal completion rate (65 per cent in 2016-17) has been showing a steady improvement over the past few years.
Across the province, the completion rate for Aboriginal students showed a similar improvement, up 2.1 per cent in 2016-17 compared to the previous school year. Aboriginal high-school completion is up to 65.9 per cent in B.C., an increase of 19 per cent in the past 10 years.
Students designated as having special needs have also closed the gap in high-school completion, up 2.4 per cent to 69.4 per cent in 2016-17 compared to the previous year. Over the past 10 years, special needs completion rates have improved more than 25 per cent.
While there has been a steady stream of labour disputes, legal action and claims of under-funding in the B.C. school system during the decade, and a scramble to hire thousands of teachers after a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada on teacher bargaining last year, student achievement has led the country and the world.
According to the ministry’s website, B.C. student achievement is the highest of all Canadian provinces, with only Finland and Japan finishing ahead of B.C. in international rankings.
In a 2014 report on education performance by the Conference Board of Canada, B.C. students had the highest average reading literacy rate in Canada, and were recognized as one of the top seven jurisdictions in the world.