The trend throughout Canada is towards senior matriculation, based on the completion of Grade XII (or XIII in Ontario) as the standard of entrance to universities. New Brunswick is the latest province to fall into line in this respect: its students now in Grade XI will be required to take another year of schooling before receiving their full matriculation.
The pressure for this movement did not come from the universities, and comparatively few universities require senior matriculation for entrance, though most of them accept it as advanced credit on their university courses. The pressure came from Departments of Education, partly for the purpose of improving the school-leaving standards of the great majority of students, who do not go on to universities, and partly to give time to broaden the curriculum by introducing subjects like shop household science, and industrial arts. which tended to crowd out the more academic subjects of the matriculation programme.
The universities are satisfied, or even prefer, to get students at the junior matriculation level, since they, too, have the problem of finding time enough to fit into a crowded programme all the courses which seem necessary to the preparation of students for graduation in the various specialties. In most cases, professional courses which formerly occupied four years from junior matriculation, and which an effort was made to reduce to three years after the introduction of senior matriculation, are now again four years in length, it having been found impossible to cover the work satisfactorily in three years.
The effect of introducing senior matriculation was thus to extend by one year the combined total period occupied by primary, secondary, and higher education. This result defeated one argument for senior matriculation, namely, that it was cheaper for both the state and the individual to have students take an extra year at high school and so save a year in college. On the other hand it should result in a higher standard of education, both for those who go to college and for the larger number who do not go.
An exception to the foregoing is the pass course in Arts and Science, which in most universities can still be completed in three years by students entering with senior matriculation credit. This exception may be important in Newfoundland, where the Faculty of Arts and Science will probably remain for some time the dominant faculty in point of numbers of students. But by no means all Arts students will be content with a pass degree. The programme for this degree affords a good general education, but good students who are taking the course as preparation for professional work (e.g. in the sciences) will want to read for honours, and this usually requires an extra year.
Another problem arises for students who are taking a pre-professional course of two or three years in the Arts Faculty. It would be very difficult to cut off a year (by reason of senior matriculation credit) and still do justice to these. Theoretically it should be possible, but practically the student is handicapped who pursues his undergraduate course in three different institutions (high school, Memorial College, and professional school). It is like building a car from spare parts picked up at a number of places. It can be done, but does not compare in efficiency with the work of a well-organized, self-contained plant.
The Grade XI standard in Newfoundland seems rather better in academic content than the corresponding grade in other provinces where more of the newer subjects of study have been introduced. The three R's are easier and more appropriate to teach with the restricted facilities of the one- and two-room schools which still predominate in Newfoundland. Students who go on to the University may actually gain by this limitation in number of subjects though the other students may lose in breadth of preparation for living.
Apparently such Grade XII work as was formerly done in the "Colleges" (secondary schools) of St. John's was mostly discontinued after Memorial College opened in 1925, in favour of giving the students a minimum of two years at the latter institution. That was a thoroughly sound arrangement at the time. Now, however, that the Memorial University is carrying students in some faculties to the degree level, it is legitimate to raise the question, as St. Bride's College has done, of advanced credit in those faculties for students entering with senior matriculation. Grade XII students preparing for entrance to other faculties might better continue to go, as they are said now to do, directly to mainland universities rather than divide their undergraduate course into so many bits and pieces as would result from attending Memorial University for a single year.
There still remains the question of the acceptability to Memorial University of the senior matriculation standards of other provinces. Matriculation examinations are traditionally prescribed by the university to which the matriculants seek entrance. In practice the mechanics of the examinations in this country are looked after by Provincial Departments of Education, with the universities represented on revisions committees. The various universities have signally failed, in efforts sponsored by the National Conference of Canadian Universities, to establish common matriculation standards. In general they do accept one another's matriculation certificates at face value, though it is not uncommon for particular faculties to require students to make up deficiencies before they are granted full standing.
As pointed out above, because local circumstances have largely prevented the dilution of the Newfoundland school curriculum with popular modern subjects, junior matriculants are farther advanced in the traditional academic subjects than students with similar standing from other places. The Memorial University has therefore grounds for examining the records of students with advanced credits from other provinces to see how much local credit they deserve. The solution for this uncertainty is of course for Newfoundland to set its own Grade XII examinations as soon as the number of candidates justifies this step. For Grade XII subjects specified as part of the matriculation programme, the University and the Department of Education should collaborate in setting standards.
It is reasonable to expect the general trend towards a twelve-year school programme to influence Newfoundland, and the University must be prepared to adjust its programme accordingly. Only the larger centres will be equipped for such advanced school instruction, and the University, though it should accept students with advanced credit, must for a long time to come continue to accept also students with junior matriculation.
The heavy "academic mortality" at the end of the freshman year has always been a matter of concern to the universities. A statistical study of the matriculation records of students entering the University of Alberta showed that practically none who averaged less than 60% in Grade XIl examinations (as compared with a pass mark of 50%) succeeded in passing the examinations of the first year in the University. To avoid an unnecessary waste of time and money by students who have little chance of "making the grade," the University now requires a minimum of 60% for entrance. This is a point which should be watched by Memorial University. It is no kindness to admit students who have no prospect of proceeding successfully to a degree.
Celebrate Memorial Home | History | The 50's | 1952 | Contents