Yukon drops mandatory exams

Many exams are now optional for Yukon students. Education Minister Patrick Rouble announced the change Wednesday, following the submission of a petition signed by more than 450 students and parents.

Many exams are now optional for Yukon students.

Education Minister Patrick Rouble announced the change Wednesday, following the submission of a petition signed by more than 450 students and parents.

The change brings Yukon in line with British Columbia, which decided five years ago to make most provincial exams optional.

It’s good news for Riley Tobin, 17. He worried that taking the Math 12 exam would drag down his mark last semester. So he skipped the test.

He was graded “I” for incomplete.

“I didn’t think that was fair,” said Tobin.

He knows students who skipped previous provincial exams who went unpunished. It didn’t seem right he and a few others were singled out.

Besides, Tobin’s school of choice, the University of Lethbridge, where he hopes to take kinesiology, doesn’t require applicants to take the Grade 12 exam.

He’s competing with students from British Columbia who aren’t forced to write an exam that counts for 40 per cent of his mark. That puts him on an uneven playing field.

So he helped collect signatures for a petition. It was organized by Monica Kulych, among others. She has a son in Grade 12.

Kulych became interested when she learned British Columbia had made most exams optional in 2004. “I realized we weren’t following the curriculum,” she said.

So she started talking to other parents and teachers. Others did the same. Word spread quickly.

They didn’t have much time. Once the protocols of submitting a petition to the legislature was sorted out, they had a single day to collect signatures.

They collected 468.

Yukon’s Education Department has said it’s been studying what to do with provincial exams since the matter was first publicly raised in January.

The tabling of the petition put Rouble’s feet to the fire. He announced exams would be optional, effective for students this year, the day the petition was tabled on Wednesday.

The legislature’s public gallery, which is usually occupied by the occasional political aide or curious resident, was standing-room-only on Monday, with more than 70 people filling the benches and standing to watch.

Not everyone was there for the petition. About two dozen First Nation residents were in attendance for a tribute to an elder who recently died. And a class of elementary students were there on a field trip. But that leaves at least two dozen parents and students who showed up.

“They’re here to watch democracy in action,” said Don Inverarity, introducing the visitors.

“I think it’s so fantastic,” Kulych said of the news that most exams would be optional.

Five exams continue to be mandatory. They are Language Arts 10, Language Arts 12, Science 10, Math 10 and Social Studies 11.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.