Five Steps to Buck Up for B.C. Education

PhotoMy two kids were lucky enough to graduate from Tri City high schools, one in ’99 and one in 2001. They were lucky because they graduated just before  government cuts  began to affect educational resources  and programmes.

Now they’re both high school teachers in the same school district (one at his alma mater). Neither can believe the scarcity of  resources and paucity of student opportunity compared with when they were in school. Art, shop programmes, Journalism, Library, sports teams, drama, after school activities have seemingly withered away they often report when they (too seldom) drop by Mom and Dad’s.

Ancient technology,neglected maintenance, field trips – things that make school memorable and developmentally important to kids. Public schools have moved back in time and it’s possible they won’t get their vibrancy  back.

The B.C. government seems to  think PISA scores and measurable outcomes is what counts.They believe that teaching is easy, a soft touch, and that teachers require instruction and curricula from Ministry people unschooled in school and learning.

Every education initiative, announcement and re-announcement is a political strategy. Suspicion and disrespect for public schools and teachers permeates their actions and words.

And it’s so discouraging to see our public schools going the way of U.S. public schools.
The strategies are the same. Tried  and true. Defund,measure, indict,and repeat until the public is on side and demands “choice”, vouchers, merit pay, testing, measurable outcomes.

Do we have to go down this old, potholed, school privatization road?
Most, who know education, know public schooling is not that mysterious, and will only fail if we continue to Goebbles it into disrepute, using standardized testing ,underfunding and union bashing as weapons and corporate profiteers for patrons.

We don’t have to continue, like lemmings, down this road over the privatization cliff.  Why would we in B.C. want to ape U.S. public school strategies, repeatedly proven the least successful public school strategies in the world?

We don’t have to. It’s not that complicated.

What if instead , we did these five things:

1) Funded public schools( not private schools) equitably & adequately – no, I mean really.

2) Demanded extensive training for teachers – perhaps Masters degrees.

3)  Negotiated broad,reasonable terms of employment and budgets, leaving details to local  districts. ( end per pupil funding)

4) Allowed teachers professional autonomy for designing the teaching and learning within broad provincial curricula established by educators.

5) Adjusted teacher’s salaries to be the second or third highest in  Canada, then committed  to meeting annual cost of living increases in hard costs and teacher and support staff salaries.

We’ve done half of  number 4 already, although we did it badly, offering scant consultation and no money for implementing sweeping new curricula.

Alas, we have made no attempt at the other four suggestions however and they, or a similar amalgam are the only way to resurrect our wounded public school system.

By doing so,perhaps B.C. could avoid the following, frightening statistic:

U.S.      – 50% of public school teachers leave the profession within 5 years of entering it.

Finland- 97% of public school teachers remain in what is seen as a career, not a job.

Given this statistic, no PISA test is required to determine which country’s education system is operating more successfully. (One might be quite surprised to discover which system is more expensive, however.)

I wonder if my own two, high school teacher children will continue to see teaching as a calling,as in Finland  or just a poorly paid job ,as it’s seen in the U.S. and increasingly in B.C.

There has been a significant disrespect for teachers and public schools  baked into B.C.’s battle fatigued public by the government’s fifteen year vendettta.

Sure, it’s about serial funding cuts and eroding salary. But it’s the continuous disdain and disrespect heaped on schools and teachers that has really drooped the shoulders of  B.C. public educators. Too many teachers have been forced to teach defensively to cope – closing classroom doors, pulling out worksheets, hoping to make it through the week. Embracing volunteer activities with kids or going for a Friday beer or to a staff get together is not even an option to many, stressed teachers.

If we don’t rehabilitate our commitment to public schools soon, they will  be beyond repair, physically and politically.

I don’t want my uniform clad grandchildren to be bussed across town to a “Learning Academy ” that stresses rigour,test results and competition and is run for profit by poorly trained and paid trainees and corporate consultant.

Rather, I want them to walk ,with friends, to and from their neighbourhood school, where the grass is cut,the weeds pulled, and the school freshly painted. I want their teachers to be enthusiastic and well trained, empathetic and patient. I want my grandchildren to be active in school activities that are happily supervised and organized by teachers who have the time and inclination to do so.

What could possibly be a better investment in our future?

It’s about money and respect. A lot of money and a lot of respect. Teachers and public schools have gone  fifteen years with little of either.

Come on B.C. Let’s take the five steps above, buck up and defend our kids schools, their embattled teachers and support workers, and parenthetically, my own two ,not quite completely disillusioned, children.


About jimnelson806

Educational consultant from Port Moody. "The Stuff Isn't What's Important" " School Wide Discipline Programmes Don't Work" " Vice Principals are crucial towards setting direction"
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3 Responses to Five Steps to Buck Up for B.C. Education

  1. Geoff McElgunn says:

    Those of us who were in the system when it was healthy and properly funded look back fondly on the days of maintained landscaping, shiny floors, regular repainting, adequate secretarial services and reasonable supply budgets. As the old guard retires or just gives up, the new generations of teachers and students have come to believe that the condition of public education in B.C. is normal. There is an agenda here, and the “death by a thousand cuts” process we have seen over the last five years is having the desired effect. Christy Clarke’s press conference statement about how pleased she was that the Supreme Court decision would mean that students could now get the services they need pretty well sums up the insincerity of this government when it comes to supporting students in the public system.
    Let’s get the word out!


  2. Geoff McElgunn says:

    Last 15 years! 5 years was a typo!


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