Grade 12 exams returning to Manitoba, experts wondering why

Manitoba-wide grade 12 tests are making a return in the province, just months after they were officially scrapped. Mike Albanese has more on what’s to come in 2024, and what experts have to say.

By Mike Albanese

Manitoba’s Education Minister says Grade 12 provincial exams are returning and it has some experts asking why.

After nearly three years, provincial exams are coming back to Manitoba schools in 2024, but not all think bringing back regulated compulsory testing is the right move.

“Instead of a rear-view mirror, let’s be forward-looking in this province and make some positive changes in terms of how we assess our students,” said Martha Koch, associate dean at the University of Manitoba.

“I really don’t support the return to grade 12 provincial exams.”

Koch says exams cover a narrow part of a year’s curriculum and are generally too high a portion of a student’s final mark. She wants to see teachers given the flexibility to assess their students on their performance throughout the year.

“Develop assessments that give lots of opportunities for students to show very sophisticated competencies which are at the heart of the learning that we do now, not the narrow things that can be assessed in a written exam.”

On Monday, Manitoba’s Education Minister sent out a letter to stakeholders outlining the return of provincial exams for mathematics and language arts, while stating that the new grade 10 assessments will also stick around.

Manitoba Teachers Society President James Bedford says these assessments are welcomed, as long as the aim is to spot deficiencies in need of funding and effort, and not to rank different schools.

“If we’re going to use the results to inform us about the system province-wide and make beneficial decisions after we’ve tested the system – that’s excellent – but let’s not get into using them as specific assessment that will be published about one child, or one classroom, or one school,” said Bedford.

Standardized exams were largely suspended across Canada during the pandemic, as not every student had the same access to resources while working remotely. Despite schools returning to pre-pandemic operations, some provinces are doing away with a traditional provincial exam format.

Bedford says exams are valuable to students who plan to attend university, but may not be necessary for students with other post-high school plans. He says teachers should have the autonomy on whether they offer exams or not.

“An exam may be an excellent thing in one course, it may not be an excellent thing in another course.”

Coach says reinstituting provincial exams in Manitoba not only goes against the kindergarten-to-Grade-12 school system report but is also a drain on resources that could be spent in areas teachers are identifying as problem spots within their schools.

“The cost associated with developing provincial assessments, and administering and grading them – is not money well spent.”

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