UBC broadens its age horizons
By Katie Warfield
Picture a typical 14-year-old. Then picture them starting their first year at the University of British Columbia.
That is exactly what the transition program at UBC is trying to do while exploring how important high school really is to social development.
The transition program, a combined effort between the Vancouver school board and UBC, enables 12 to 16-year-olds to complete their entire high school education in two years, explained Stan Blank, UBC transition program liaison.
"The transition program, which started five years ago, is unlike anything else in Canada," said Elizabeth Hancock, coordinating teacher for the program.
Extremely gifted students who have completed grade seven may apply and are assessed with an IQ test and a psychological examination, explained Blank.
The students enrolled in the transition program also have the opportunity to take courses at UBC concurrently with their regular classes, Hancock explained.
"I found that when I was in public school the curriculum was very slow and repetitive," said Andrew Xu, a 14-year-old student in the second year of the transition program.
Xu explained he started researching the transition program when he read a magazine article in grade five.
"It's a lot of work but it's fun," Xu said. "My favourite part is the flexibility of the program." Xu explained the ratio of students to teachers in the second year of the program is seven to one.
"I spent one year in regular high school but found that more than half the time was dedicated to review and any attempts to work ahead with the teacher's help was very difficult."
Hancock said the program allows students to create close-knit friendships with other students of like minds. "Students who have graduated from the program have come back to me and said that the things they may have missed out on in high school are equally available at university."
Most students find it easy to get along with other students in the program as well as with the university students on campus, Hancock added.
Professor Harry Murray, an educational psychologist at Western, said research evidence is mixed on the subject of the psychological effects of entering university at a young age. "I actually entered university at the age of 16 and found that I had missed out on things socially. I almost felt like I was part of a different generation than the other students," Murray explained.
Xu said although he had to give up some potential social experiences by not going to high school, he has made close friends with the other students involved in the program.
The experiences he gave up socially were compensated for by the quality of learning he has received from the transition program, he added.