About 200 high school students from across the province gathered for the 34th annual student leadership conference in Fredericton Nov. 14-15 where they dived into issues concerning New Brunswick's education system.
"Take advantage of this time to share your positives and opportunities for growth," Superintendent David McTimoney told students from ASD-W. "We want to hear about your amazing experiences at school as well as how to make things better."
Key topics for discussion among students included vaping at school, a need for a consistent grading system for middle and high school based on percentages, classroom composition, improving access and delivery of French Immersion programming, updating technology, providing access to WIFI at all schools, offering better course options and more online learning especially for rural schools.
Students also expressed an appreciation for their teachers trying to meet the needs of all learners, noting the pressure this can create for everyone in the classroom.
"We believe in inclusion," one student said. "But realistically, it doesn't work when there are a lot of distractions."
The students stressed more teachers, educational assistants and guidance counsellors are needed to strengthen the education system as a whole.
They also called for more self-directed learning, outdoor classroom experiences and field trips, enrichment and higher placement opportunities, skilled trades, better support for mental health, increased awareness about post secondary education, and more co-op programs involving universities.
They had high praise for peer mentoring and other student led initiatives such as building school spirit, community volunteering, fundraising for breakfast and student hunger programs, and supporting students in need of access to personal care items such as feminine hygiene products.
To improve their learning opportunities, the students agreed using Skype would be a great way to access a class they may not otherwise be able to attend. They mentioned a need for more Level 1 courses, classes in advanced math, life skills, sex education, political science, civics education, debating, budgeting and taxation, cursive writing, life sciences, and animal biology as well as more opportunity for French language classes in rural schools. Fine arts, music and sports were listed among their favourite activities for enrichment, confidence and relationship building.
"It's important to hear the views of our students," said Wallace Carr, a district education council (DEC) member for ASD-W. "They live the life at school and they have told us what our school system needs. We have to start trusting the kids. They have some good ideas. They are the future."
Carr asked the students to get involved with the DEC's student voice committee so they could bring their concerns and ideas directly to the council.
This suggestion caught the attention of Tristan Demerchant, a Grade 11 student from Hartland Community School.
"It's important for students to get a voice in the district not just in our school," Demerchant said during the conference.
Provincial student council elections were also part of the two-day event.