Learning environment different at VIU high

NANAIMO – Students point out benefits of small class sizes at open house.

The High School at Vancouver Island University is unlike other Nanaimo high schools but administrators say the differences make for a good learning environment.

With a current enrolment of 75 students, an average class size of about 13 students and serving Grades 10 to 12, the high school runs on a quarterly system – September to November, November to January, February to April and April to June.

The high school is not associated with Nanaimo school district and students only have two classes a day throughout a quarter with one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Vice-principal Nick Yaremchuk said students still end up with the same amount of courses as they would if they were enrolled in the regular system and while some might think students have trouble with only two classes a day, that isn’t the case.

“[It] has the risk, I originally thought, of boring the students to death but the great thing is you get, with the right teaching, in-depth coverage of subjects and kids who can be successful finish a course and move on to the next one,” Yaremchuk said.

The class size and teacher-to-student ratio allows the staff to better cater to the individual needs of students, something Yaremchuk points to as the high school’s strongest suit.

“We’re able to treat every student like an individual. Whether they’re someone who needs to be challenged because they are very academically focused, or someone who needs assistance because they have a learning disability, or they’ve just struggled in school, our teachers pride themselves on knowing what’s going on with each student,” Yaremchuk said.

Amanda Nagy has attended other high schools and the environment at the university-situated secondary school suits her better. She likes the smaller classes and said there aren’t cliques. Two classes a day per quarter suits her just fine.

“You think the more you learn in one day, the more you’d forget, but you learn it, you practise it and you learn more that builds on to that, so you have to remember that,” Nagy said.

Anton Lyashuk, an international student from the Ukraine, agrees.

“I find it good because you can concentrate on the two classes,” he said.

Students who attend the high school have access to some of Vancouver Island University’s amenities, including the gym and library. Long-time staff member and vice-principal Christine Mitchell estimated an average of 15 students a year move on from the high school to the university – students must meet university entrance requirements but there are advantages.

“For the international students … they have special advisors that they talk to and they can go straight into classes they’re qualified to go into,” Mitchell said.

The high school is only one of three in Canada attached to a university, with the others located in Winnipeg and Toronto.

The High School at Vancouver Island University is paid for by tuition, the university and the Ministry of Education and offers university preparation and adult graduation programs as well.