Schools in BC have had to adapt according to COVID-19 restrictions, and that means many things are different. One of the most significant changes is the move away from a semester-based year to the new quarter system.
The quarter system has put a strain on students, teachers, and parents alike. We’ll unpack the details and give you some tips on how to make the quarter system work for you.
What is the Quarter System?
The quarter system has replaced the traditional semester system. We’ll examine both here.
In middle and high school, classes usually follow a schedule of two semesters for the entire year. This means the schoolyear is split into two equal halves of about five months each. These semesters are further split into two terms each, giving four terms for the year.
Academic classes (math, science, English, and social studies) carry on for an entire semester. Some electives span a whole semester as well, but many are only one term long. Students take four different classes during each semester (more if their classes are only one term long). Classes are one hour and fifteen minutes each, allowing teachers to introduce one lesson and assign homework.
The quarter system turns semester-long courses into term-long courses. This means students are expected to complete courses in half the regular time. A science class that would normally take five months to complete is being squeezed into a period of two and a half months.
To make up for this, students only have two different classes during a quarter. However, individual classes are now over two hours long each day. Instead of receiving one new lesson per class, students have to learn two lessons per class every day. There is no opportunity to practice the new material from the first lesson before moving on.
In academic classes, the quarter system creates an information overload. Students need time to digest new concepts before learning more, especially since subsequent lessons build upon ideas introduced earlier in the day.
If a student struggles to grasp the first lesson of the day, the second lesson will be even further out of reach. This can lead to confusion and a lack of confidence if concerns aren’t addressed in time.
Imagine sitting in math class, listening to the teacher talk about polynomials, distributive property, decomposition, quadratics…
…and then the teacher moves on to something else that requires you to know exactly what those terms mean! With the semester system, students would have at least a day and a night to think about such things. The quarter system simply doesn’t allow for that sort of gestation period.
The pace of the quarter system makes it difficult for students to keep up. Classes are averaging a new unit every week, and that means a unit test every week. With so little time to prepare, anxiety levels are running high, and families are panicking.
So, how can you support your child as they work through the quarter system? Here are a few ways to lighten the load and restore the balance of things.
Create a Routine
Help your child come up with an organized study routine. Doing twice the work in half the time is a tall order, and daily studying can make a huge difference. Consistency is the key to success, so choose a set of times and commit to them. Good study habits are essential in post-secondary school, so it’s great to get started early.
Setting aside as little as one hour every night will go a long way toward improving understanding and retaining information. This could take place in the form of reading the textbook, writing notes, trying practice problems, working ahead, explaining concepts to a sibling, or a combination of these.
Even if your student has a firm grasp on everything, encourage them to maintain the routine. They’ll thank you later!
Take a Break
We’ve all been there—it’s the night before an exam, and all information has fled the brain. Time to cram! Well, maybe that’s not the best option.
The quarter system ensures students will be spending more time studying one or two subjects instead of three or four. Maintaining such a narrow focus for too long can actually have negative effects on comprehension. This can be avoided with regular breaks.
It seems simple, but taking a few minutes to get up and walk around can have a massive impact on mental function. Mixing physical activity with studying stimulates the brain and turns it into a learning machine!
Since classes are over two hours long, teachers are supposed to give students a break to walk around at the halfway mark. If this isn’t the case, try contacting the teacher to ensure kids are getting that much-needed break.
If your child feels like they don’t know enough to pass an upcoming test, it can be tempting to stay up late and consume as much information as possible. Again, this will do more harm than good. It’s important to know when enough is enough—a proper sleep will earn a higher mark than an all-nighter staring at a textbook. Studying is great, but breaks are important too!
Alternative Education and Hybrid Schooling
Brick-and-mortar school isn’t the only option for students. If the quarter system isn’t working out, you might want to try an alternative learning format. There are many fantastic online learning programs and cross-enrolment options available.
Alternative education doesn’t have to follow the quarter system, so students are free to work at their own pace. This also means they can choose how many courses they wish to take at one time. Students can sign up for strictly online courses or a combination of online and in-person.
Our founder, Amber Scotchburn, has plenty of experience with alternative education. Her son Marley has worked through a hybrid learning program to great effect. If you’d like to know more about hybrid learning, we encourage you to read Marley’s hybrid learning story.
Tutoring is a fantastic way to ensure your child is getting the support they need. A tutor can spend extra time reinforcing core concepts, providing an important boost of confidence. This means less stress, higher grades, and healthier minds.
Having access to reliable assistance outside of school can be a lifesaver. Knowing that all questions, concerns, and misunderstandings will be addressed allows students to breathe a sigh of relief. This means they can use their beautiful brains for learning and enjoying childhood instead of worrying about midterms.
A tutor can also help forge transferable skills to last a lifetime. These can include problem solving, time management, organization, and many more. Committing to study routines and preparing for tests will become easier, giving students the self-sufficiency to thrive on their own.
Let’s Handle the Quarter System Together
The quarter system is difficult, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. You and your child can get through it, and we’re here for you. Our twisted tutors are ready to help with everything from earth science to essay writing, and we’ll find the perfect match for you. Don’t hesitate to contact us for more information—we’d love to hear from you!
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