Ontario Academic Credit

Ontario Academic Credit

The Ontario Academic Credit or OAC (French: Cours préuniversitaire de l'Ontario or CPO) was part of the curriculum(s) codified by the Ontario Ministry of Education in Ontario Schools: Intermediate and Senior (OS:IS) and its revisions. In common parlance, the term is used to describe the fifth high school year (originally known as Grade 13) that used to exist in the province of Ontario, Canada. It can also refer to the courses offered at the OAC level, or the high school credits that are associated with these courses. Finally, it can refer, informally, to students who were in their OAC year (OACs). Ontario Academic Credits and its related curriculum have been phased out and were last offered for the 2006-2007 school year.


Ontario Academic Credit year

Prior to the introduction of OAC for students entering high school (grade 9) in the 1984-1985 school year, Ontario had 13 grades, with Grade 13 first being established in 1921.[1] There were two high school diplomas in Ontario, the Secondary School Graduation Diploma (SSGD) which was awarded after Grade 12 and the Secondary School Honours Graduation Diploma (SSHGD) awarded after Grade 13. 1988 was the final year the SSHGD was awarded thereby ending Grade 13 in its original meaning.

The "Grade 13 diploma" was recognized in many jurisdictions as being the equivalent of first-year university and having it would enable some students to apply directly for entry into second-year at universities outside of Ontario. This practice ended with the replacement of the SSHGD with the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) under OS:IS.

In part due to the phenomenon of "grade inflation" common to many countries including Canada, the percentage of academic-stream "Ontario Scholars" (those graduating with averages of 80% or over) has risen over the years.[2] This raises the question as to whether the marks earned in an OAC subject were worth the same as marks earned in the older Grade 13 subject.

OS:IS more formally allowed for the completion of schooling after only 12 grades, where previously, this had been an exceptional circumstance. Under OS:IS, OAC year was the final year of high school in Ontario. Students were not required to complete that year in order to receive the OSSD; many students graduated after Grade 12. However, Canadian universities (and indeed, most universities abroad) required OAC for admission.

Ontario Academic Credit courses

OAC courses were the highest level courses in Ontario high schools until the formal elimination of the Ontario Academic Credit. To enter university, students were required to complete 30 high school credits (courses can have different credit values, but most courses were worth 1 credit; some courses were compulsory and there were other restrictions), 6 of which had to be at the OAC level. Assuming that one had taken the necessary prerequisite courses, one could complete an OAC course before the OAC year, thus in many schools, it was common for Grade 11 or Grade 12 students to have taken OAC courses. Students who completed these requirements in 4 years of high school were permitted to graduate; this practice was known as fast-tracking. Finishing Grade 12 in four years with 30 credits was simple if the student was college bound. However most students who were interested in studying at the university level, ended up staying for a 5th year to complete OACs due to the heavy workload, lack of OAC prerequisite credits, or for personal reasons.

Ontario universities looked at a prospective matriculant's "top-six" (the six OAC courses taken with the highest grades) and averaged them. If one's "top-six" average was above a university's "cut-off" (the lowest average they would be willing to accept for that year), one would be admitted. Most university programs had certain course requirements. All programs required OAC English in addition to other specific program area OAC requirements such as Algebra, Geometry, or Calculus for Sciences, or History, Geography or Art related OAC's for Social Science programs.

Students with an average of 80% or greater over 6 OAC courses were named Ontario Scholars. Currently, the same applies for people getting an average over 80% in 6 grade 12 credits.[3]

Elimination of OAC

The phasing out of the OAC year was apart of a series of recommendations made by the Royal Commission on Learning and was implemented in 1999 by the governing Ontario Progressive Conservative Party under the leadership of Premier Mike Harris.[4] The motivation for phasing out OAC was largely thought of as a cost-saving measure by the Progressive Conservatives, and to bring Ontario in line with the rest of the provinces.[5][6][7] The reforms cumulated into a new, standardized curriculum documented in Ontario Secondary Schools, Grades 9 to 12: Program and Diploma Requirements (OSS).[8] The OAC year was replaced with an extra ten days of schooling in each lower grade, and the material was integrated into the earlier years of education.[6]


The elimination of OAC had led to a spike in more than 100,000 students graduating in 2003, with the last OAC (OS:IS) class and the first Grade 12 (OSS) class graduating in the same year.[5] This had strained many Ontario post-secondary institutions, as the spike in students had led to forced the institutions to either construct, or rent new buildings for student housing.[9] With the rise of students entering the post-secondary education, the provincial government had set aside additional fundings for colleges and universities to build more infrastructures such as residence and classrooms.[6] They also had to provide more resources such as upgrading libraries, adding more study areas, creating new programs and hiring additional professors and teaching assistants. For those who are unable to enter post-secondary institutions, the provincial government allocated more fundings for the apprentice program. The spike in students graduating in 2003 had also led to more competitive admission standards in most Ontario universities.[5] Some students under OS:IS who feared that they might not be able to gain admission to the university of their choice as a result of the double cohort decided to fast-track to graduate before 2003; a variation of this is where some students under OSS decided to take an extra year of high school to graduate in 2004 or delayed application to post-secondary institutions.[10] Double-cohort students who chose the latter options in their turn affected those in the year after them, creating a ripple effect. In June 2007, a cascade double-cohort effect occurred at universities and the job market, as double cohort students who were finishing their undergraduate studies in April competed for graduate spaces in universities or employment in the job market.[5]

Consequences outside of the double cohort years have been generally mixed. Since the elimination of OAC, some have noted that a greater proportion of students have entered post-secondary education since the elimination of OAC.[5] However, in a paper published by Harry Krashinsky of the University of Toronto, Krashinsky had found that the elimination of OAC had a large and negative impact on academic performance in university.[11]

Patrick Brady and Philip Allingham of Lakehead University, has argued that the provincial government's attempt to bring Ontario in line with the rest of the continent's 12 grades system has only been partially successful. Both have noted that the fifth year in secondary schools is still a norm in Ontario, with students in Ontario still opting to take a fifth year in secondary school, colloquially known as the victory lap.[1] In the 2007-2008 year, students over the age of 19 made up 3.7 percent of all secondary day school enrolment in Ontario.[12]

Elimination of OAC and drinking age

The elimination of OAC resulted in the majority of incoming first-year students in Ontario universities to drop from 19 years of age to 18 years of age. This created a legal liability to universities as the majority of first-year students were now below the legal drinking age (it is 19 in Ontario). This has forced the universities to eliminate or police many frosh-week events and traditions that allegedly encouraged drinking and has banned the consumption of alcohol at most frosh-week events. Queen's University's Student Orientation Activities Review Board (SOARB) noted in 2005 that "first-year students seemed to show more desire to drink than those of the past few years. Student drinking, prior to attendance, compromised events at which no alcohol was available... The Board wonders if there is merit to making the evening hours busier to avoid allowing time to “pre-drink” before events."[13]

With a significant minority of students below the legal drinking age, 18 year-olds are legally excluded from campus events and social activities.[14] The temporal nature of this exclusion and the stress associated with establishing a social network in an unfamiliar environment creates intense pressure for underage students to either find ways to subvert the Ontario drinking laws (by purchasing fake IDs, using real IDs of other people, or drinking in private residences with ill-gotten alcohol) or sacrifice relationships with those of legal drinking age.[15]

See also


  1. ^ a b Brady, Patrick; Allingham, Philip (18 November 2010). "Pathways to university: The "Victory Lap" Phenomenon in Ontario". Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy (113). http://umanitoba.ca/publications/cjeap/pdf_files/brady-allingham.pdf. 
  2. ^ Alan Slavin, "Has Ontario taught its high-school students not to think?" University Affairs, Sept. 10, 2007 http://www.universityaffairs.ca/has-ontario-taught-its-high-school-students-not-to-think.aspx
  3. ^ "Policy/Program Memorandum No. 53". Toronto: Queen's Printer for Ontario. 17 April 2009. http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/extra/eng/ppm/53.html. Retrieved 7 June 2009. "He or she obtains an aggregate of at least 480 marks in any combination of ministry-approved courses listed below that provide a total of six credits, as defined by Ontario Secondary Schools, Grades 9 to 12: Program and Diploma Requirements, 1999 (OSS) and/or Ontario Schools, Intermediate and Senior Divisions (Grades 7–12/OACs): Program and Diploma Requirements, rev. ed., 1989 (OSIS)." 
  4. ^ "Royal Commission on Learning provides a blueprint for changing Ontario schools". Queen's Printer for Ontario. 26 January 1995. http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/abcs/rcom/news.html. Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Gladstone, Tina (29 March 2007). "Double cohort graduating again". The Toronto Star. http://www.thestar.com/article/196539. Retrieved 30 March 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c Morse, Jane Fowler (2007). A level playing field: school finance in the Northeast. SUNY Press. p. 92. 
  7. ^ "Ontario dropout rate soars 40% after Grade 13 abolished". NUPGE. 18 August 2011. http://www.nupge.ca/news_2005/n18au05a.htm. Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  8. ^ "Ontario Secondary Schools, Grades 9 to 12: Program and Diploma Requirements". Queen's Printer for Ontario. 2011. http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/document/curricul/secondary/oss/oss.html. Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  9. ^ "Ontario's double cohort strains resources". CBC News. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 31 August 2003. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2003/08/31/doublecohort030831.html. Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  10. ^ "Double Cohort: Double workforce?". Ontario Association of Youth Employment Centres. March 2003. p. 13. http://www.oayec.org/res/userfiles/PDF/past_research/double_cohort_double_workforce.pdf. Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  11. ^ Krashinsky, Harry (2005). "How Would One Extra Year of High School Affect Academic Performance in University? Evidence from a Unique Policy Change". Canadian Journal of Higher Education (The Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education) 35. http://www.clsrn.econ.ubc.ca/hrsdc/papers/Paper%20no.%201%20-%20Harry%20Krashinsky.pdf. 
  12. ^ "Adults in Secondary Day School". Quick Facts Ontario Schools 2007-08. Queen’s Printer for Ontario. 2010. p. 11. http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/elemsec/quickfacts/2007-08/quickFacts07_08.pdf. 
  13. ^ "Minutes of SOARB". Queen's Senate. October 20, 2005. http://www.queensu.ca/secretariat/senate/SOARB/Minutes/Oct20_05.pdf. Retrieved 1 December 2009. 
  14. ^ "All Quiet on the Campus Front". Queen's Journal. April 5, 2007. http://www.queensjournal.ca/story/2007-04-05/arts-entertainment/all-quiet-campus-front/. Retrieved 1 December 2009. 
  15. ^ "Lowered drinking age benefits students". The Gazette. September 14, 2006. http://www.gazette.uwo.ca/article.cfm?section=opinions&articleID=985&month=9&day=14&year=2006. Retrieved 1 December 2009. 
Preceded by
Twelfth Grade
Thirteenth Grade
Succeeded by
Higher education

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