Academics & Curriculum

If one contemplates a Burlington High School report card from 1925, one is struck by the traditional and academic nature of the course offerings of that time – English (Composition, Literature and Grammar), Mathematics and Sciences, History, Geography, Art, French, German and Latin. Each language was divided into Composition and Authors. Reflecting the still strongly agrarian nature of the region, there was a course in Agriculture, but one suspects that it was more theoretical than practical. The 1931 edition of the yearbook, Rarebits, is enlightening, too. In a summary of one Year I (Grade 9) home form’s experience, it is noted that IB had “lost” nine members who had undoubtedly left school to join the work force of the 1930s. Although a Commercial program is mentioned by that time, the tone of yearbook is very academic. One article extols the virtues of the Classics while others describe the activities of the Literary Society and the production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”.

It is almost thirty years later that one sees an indication of additions to the curriculum targeting a wider variety of learners. In a collection of recollections, Donald Gentleman, a former Central Vice-­‐Principal and Principal, described this development that took place in September 1960. “For the first time two courses were introduced into the school to accommodate students who were not academically inclined or experienced difficulties in the academic program. These students often dropped out of school. The new courses would offer a two-­‐year program that would provide skill development in a clerical program and an industrial program. Half the time would be spent on academics appropriate to their needs and the other half would be spent on skill development in their respective areas.”

One of the most significant changes in secondary education in Ontario came into effect in the early 1960s. The Robarts Plan was introduced for incoming Grade 9 students in September 1962 and it spread upward with them through the grades and was fully in place in 1966. Under it students would choose an area of interest to pursue. The three areas were Arts and Science, Science, Technology and Trades, and Business and Commerce. Each of these areas of study would include Four and Five year programs and provision was made for the two year programs that Burlington Central was already operating. The implementation of this plan required significant alterations to the physical accommodation of schools. Evidence of this was seen at Central with the subsequent addition of the 6 shops (Construction Trades, Auto Body, Sheet Metal, Electrical, Electronic, Machine) and Drafting rooms. Some of those programs are no longer offered at Central while other or their offshoots have continued to thrive. This era also saw the introduction of other new courses to the curriculum at Central. These included Man and Society, Economics, and Law.

The late 1960s and early 1970s witnessed the next significant change at Burlington Central with the phase-­‐in of the credit system. Prior to the credit system, students The late 1960s and early 1970s witnessed the next significant change at Burlington Central with the phase-­‐in of the credit system. Prior to the credit system, students were promoted by grade rather than by subject. For example, a description of the promotion meeting process for the 1954-­‐55 school year explained that students who failed as few as two final exams were required to repeat the whole grade. Under the credit system, promotion would be by subject so that students would not repeat whole grades if they were unsuccessful in certain subjects. Other features of this system included increased choice of options, greater flexibility in scheduling and core subjects being taken at different levels of instruction including an enrichment level.

The delivery of courses was further affected by the introduction of semesters in 1976. No longer would students take courses for the whole year. The year would be divided in two and students would take one set of courses from September to January and another set from February to June.

The addition of two programs has contributed significantly to the culture of Burlington Central. Around 1983-­‐84 Burlington Central was designated the English Second Language (later ELL) collector school for Burlington. Since then hundreds of adolescent newcomers to Canada have been welcomed at Burlington Central and have flourished in its nurturing and accepting environment. The experience of all students has been enriched by the diversity fostered by the placement of this program at Central.

The 1993-­‐1994 school year witnessed the arrival of the first Early French Immersion class at Burlington Central. Students completing this program over the years have graduated with a certificate of Immersion Studies to accompany their Ontario Secondary School Diploma.

The creation of the Grade 7 to graduation model has contributed to the seamless delivery of curriculum for the students at Central throughout their intermediate and senior studies.

Today adult and continuing education programs, several alternative programs and e-­‐learning are concentrated at Gary Allen High School, but Burlington Central played its role in the development of these facets of education in Halton. In September of 1986, five students enrolled in the Adult Learner Program at Burlington Central. By second semester of the 1988-­‐89 school year, that number had grown to ninety-­‐six students with five teachers offering Computers, Keyboarding, Co-­‐op, Re-­‐entry, Personal Life Management, Mathematics and English. For several years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Burlington Central housed the S.C.O.R.E. program for Burlington, an educational alternative that was tailored to the needs of a small group of students who benefitted from working in a more concentrated setting. In 2004, Burlington Central Music teacher Drago Fila offered one of the early e-­‐learning courses in Halton. His delivery of an online Music composition course earned him a Halton Board of Education Award of Merit for his pioneering efforts in e-­‐learning.