Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

No holiday for the brainy; exams on Victoria Day

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At least they won't get a sunburn.

Students at six Manitoba high schools will spend Victoria Day -- wait for it -- not at the beach, not at the lake, not in the park, not even sandbagging.

They'll be in school writing an exam.

Seriously.

There are hundreds of exams in every possible subject written in the prestigious but ultra-intense International Baccalaureate program throughout a good chunk of May, and as the name implies, they're international and each has to be written on the same day by everyone enrolled in the course.

No one else in the world celebrates Victoria Day, said Glenn Finockio, an English teacher and IB co-ordinator at Miles Macdonnell Collegiate, as well as being chairman of the Prairie Association of IB World Schools.

So, it's a normal school day everywhere except Canada.

This year, 15 possible exams in French, social and cultural anthropology, business and management and math will be written on May 20.

"It's something we grumble about," Finockio said with a rueful laugh.

It doesn't happen every year that Victoria Day falls within the IB exam period, but most years, he said.

"No other holiday falls on that Monday," he said, though the exam schedule also affects Cinco de Mayo in Mexico and the U.S. Rarely do they run late enough in May to interfere with Memorial Day in the U.S.

Students will write exams on Victoria Day at Miles Mac, Kelvin, Sturgeon Heights, Westwood, College Louis Riel and Neelin.

"I have them scheduled to write 9 a.m. to noon," Finockio said.

He'll supervise along with an administrator who opens up the school. Students will write in the Miles Mac library, and only one door to the school will be open.

"Teaching's not a 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday job," he acknowledged. "There's 147 schools across Canada writing them," including six here and four in Saskatchewan in his Prairie area, Finockio said.

Grumble though people may, "no one's ever applied to move it -- even though they wouldn't be allowed to."

Finockio said the integrity of the exam means everyone must write each individual test at the same time. "It's an academically challenging program. It's a rigorous program, for sure," he said.

Two years ago on Victoria Day, Finockio said, he had to open up Miles Mac for one IB student taking a three-hour exam in a course on Croatia.

Students and parents have known for months the exam would cut into the long weekend, he said. "Often I get a phone call saying, 'Is this a typo?'"

As for the students who've chosen to take on IB, "the grumbling comes from the fact they have to get up on a day when they would normally be sleeping in," said Finockio.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 30, 2013 B3

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