At the sound of the final school bell, a once beloved institution faces its demise. The high school equivalency test, known as the General Educational Development (GED) program, is drawing its last breaths.
Stepping back into academia amidst this impending transition is Debbie Seniuk. Now 64, Seniuk readily admits she did not complete her high school education, partly due to enduring grand mal seizures in her youth, which primarily affected her reading and writing abilities. Today, however, she is one of over a dozen students in the Open Doors adult literacy class, fervently studying with the common goal of passing the GED test.
But an obstacle looms ahead. As of May, the American company which administers the GED program will cease its operations in Canada. The future beyond this point is unclear, leaving the director of Open Doors, Margaret Banasiak, and her students in anxious anticipation about what will take its place.
Banasiak, though familiar with the GED program, confesses she has no insights into its successor. “I’ll need to do a lot of studying myself,” she admits.
The Province of Manitoba is still deciding on a suitable replacement for the GED. Assuring a smooth transition, Renée Cable, the Minister of Advanced Education and Training, promises Manitobans will not be negatively impacted by this change.
Meanwhile, the Province of Alberta is actively developing the Canadian Adult Education Credential, aiming to make it accessible to all Canadians by next year.
Banasiak has borne witness to several students expressing their frustrations over the difficulties they face in working life without a high school diploma. Manitoba’s 4-year high school graduation rate, though increasing from 76.2% in 2013 to 82.8% last year, conceals the bitter reality of a drastically lower rate among Indigenous students.
Over 43,000 adults have earned their GED certificates in Manitoba since the program’s inception. In her 50 years of pedagogical experience, Banasiak has seen hundreds benefit from the program.
While assuring that she will continue to teach the essential skills that students need, the wait for news regarding the GED replacement continues. This uncertainty, however, does not quell the enthusiasm of students like Seniuk, who is only partway through her education journey. When asked about her dreams, she spoke of her desire to study massage therapy, a dream that prompted her return to academia.
“I came back to better myself,” Seniuk affirms, undeterred by the impending changes. It is this resilience and determined pursuit of education, ever shared by Seniuk, Banasiak, and their peers, that continue to live on as the final bell tolls on the GED.