In November of 2011 — nearly four years ago — I studied B.C.’s Education Plan.
Impressed by its bold ideological goals, I have followed it closely over the years, anticipating deep social debate.
That never happened.
In fact, this year, the ministry published a 24-page update subtitled Focus on Learning, and nobody seems too interested that the B.C. Government is only a few years away from radically transforming our public education system.
According to B.C.’s Education Plan (p 6, 2011), schools will “expand [the] current learning credential program to better recognize learning that takes place outside of the classroom — like arts, sports, science and leadership programs — so that students are fairly acknowledge for this work.”
This implies that students who purchase or participate in community-based rather than school-based learning — be it pottery or painting, piano or fiddle, soccer or hockey — will receive credit for graduation.
Wonderful news — for the parents who can afford such services.
But what about less privileged children? Let’s not kid ourselves. As demand declines for art, music and physical education, the teachers of these electives will be less necessary, and public schools will no longer provide the equal access to a well-rounded and inclusive education that all of our children deserve.
More recently, the government released Bill 11, The Education Statues Amendment Act.
Most people have lost interest in this bill, dismissing it as an attack on professional development days.
But there is more: “the amendments provide boards with the authority to enter into shared services delivery agreements with … public sector entities. The minister can also require this” (BCTF Synopsis p 6, 2015).
My guess is that the government will amalgamate the corporate services required by all of the social ministries, no matter what local school boards might want.
The model for such an amalgamation already exists; it is called the Corporate Services for the Natural Resource Sector (CSNRS).
This centralized service looks after finances, facilities, vehicles, technology, security — everything necessary to maintain the Natural Resource Ministry.
In respect to education, the sharing of services will reduce the control that elected school boards have over bus, building and grounds maintenance; information management; payroll and the like.
If the government simply follows the CSNRS model, the impact on children will be minimal (unless you are a son or daughter of a redundant school district employee).
But what if government extends its definition of a shared service to include all work provided by employees of every ministry?
For example, could a forester or a biologist or an engineer working for the ministry be required to “teach?”
Back in January of 2011, the Deputy Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations requested input from district staff on B.C.’s Education Plan.
Does anyone know what resulted from this? Should teachers of biology, geography and geology be worried? Bill 11 proposes that laws around student privacy be relaxed.
This — coupled with the new MyEducation BC computer program which enables province-wide access to student data — means that just about anyone will be able to enter marks on students.
Are parents prepared to trust their child’s education to just about anyone? What, exactly, qualifies someone to teach?
Next year, the government will have completed much of the foundational work required to implement B.C.’s Education Plan, a plan that most people have ignored for four years.
There are two years before the next election.
How we educate our children should be the number one issue. Let there be debate!