PICTOU — Grade 12 Pictou Academy students will have the option next year to earn university and college credits through two new programs.

The advanced placement program allows students to write exams in their final year that, if the marks are good enough, give them credit for the equivalent first-year course at most Canadian universities.

This year, Pictou Academy students wrote advanced placement exams in English and biology, with more resources to be added to support their studies next year.

A third exam option, calculus, is planned for 2008-09.

The dual-credit program, to begin in January 2008, allows highly motivated and successful high school students to attend a course at Nova Scotia Community College while still in Grade 12. The college credit is also applied to high school credits.

The program helps students pursuing trades, as well as those planning to attend university, said Pictou Academy principal Jim Ryan.

“Nova Scotia Community College offers programs which are recognized by many Canadian universities.”

Students have to be organized and able to handle both the work and potentially conflicting schedules, but Pictou Academy is prepared to be flexible, he said.

As the smallest of Pictou County’s three high schools, Pictou Academy staff undertook a rigorous self-examination process to arrive at ways to ensure a unique and positive learning experience, he said. That involved inviting the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies to share views on successful schools and introducing a continuous evaluation and improvement process.

“We’re in a bit of a learning curve,” Mr. Ryan said, adding that teachers involved with the new programs will be offered professional development opportunities.

The Pictou Academy Educational Foundation, which funds the school’s band, yearbook, student council, prizes and other educational initiatives, has earmarked funds to provide 25 new computers.