Dear Minister Rousselle:
I am writing regarding the preparation of the government’s new10-year education strategy for our province.
As you know, I was a member of the Education Commission’s Anglophone advisory committee. Unfortunately, we were advisory in name only. We met twice as a committee, and neither meeting was designed to seek input from the advisory committee members. Communication was largely one-way, to brief us on the work of the commissioners.
At the end of our second committee meeting, we were told that our third meeting would be devoted to providing comments on the draft education strategy. In preparation, I held four meeting in my riding to seek input on what should be included in the 10-year education strategy. I held a meeting for the entire community, three meetings with students, and one meeting with teachers. The input I received is posted on my MLA website, except for the personal correspondence I received from teachers and parents.
The promised third advisory committee meeting never took place, so I was unable to present the views of my constituents to provide advice on the draft plan. Instead, that meeting was replaced with a larger Round Table meeting at which the draft education strategy was not made available for comment.
I want to take this opportunity to touch on some of the key ideas that emerged from the discussions I facilitated in my riding.
• To insulate education from political interference, create an arms-length
Education Commission to which the School Districts would be accountable, as was recommended by the Byrne Commission decades ago.
• Policy 322, the inclusion policy, is based on the CLASSROOM as the basic physical unit for learning. This is where education in New Brunswick gets stuck. We need to change our thinking and adopt the SCHOOL as the basic physical unit for learning.
• Teachers and teaching assistants should have access to greater resources and improved training on addressing students with learning disabilities, special needs, and behavioural problems. The high level of stress and burnout in the classroom today resulting from inadequate resources and supports is unacceptable.
• Shift to a learning-centred strategy, providing teachers with more freedom and flexibility to teach creatively.
• With the school as the basic physical unit for learning, students can be grouped by abilities and interest when beneficial. The current approaches of everyone should get the same education and personalized learning plans are contradictory. Children learn differently.
• Classroom composition and class sizes are key priorities for teachers, as larger classes plus inclusion is not sustainable.
• We need to broaden the approach to education so that it is focused on the development of the whole child: intellectual, physical, social and emotional.
• Teachers should not be placed outside of their academic background. Endorsed licenses based on a teacher’s area of academic concentration and expertise should be examined.
• The current system is too centralized. Schools should have some autonomy to work out solutions that best meet the needs of their students. The number of school districts needs to be increased so they are as close as possible to the schools and students they serve.
• Curriculum needs to be broader, reflecting the diversity of the student populations, and helping students learn who lives here and how to live together well. Students should learn about different religions and world views. There is a need to learn about our relationship with First Nations.
• Increased emphasis on grammar and writing is needed.
• French language training needs to be improved so that a greater proportion of students graduate with the ability to work in French. Exposure to French needs to be introduced as early as possible.
• Integrated Service Delivery must include the school in its work.
• School should be a key access point for mental health services.
• Teach students about what to look out for regarding anxiety and depression, so they know when to seek help.
• There needs to be increased emphasis on both critical thinking and practical life skills throughout the public school years.
• Better preparation for the transition from middle to high school and from high school to post-secondary is required.
• Need to focus beyond grades to how students can contribute to improving society.
These are among the key findings from my discussions with students, teachers and parents in my constituency. I trust you will find the comments useful in your review of the recommendations of the Education Commissioners.
As always, I would be happy to meet with you to discuss the input I have received from my constituents. There is a high level of interest in education and some trepidation about what the 10-year education strategy might contain.
I look forward to reading the report of the Education Commissioners when it is completed and am more than willing to discuss its recommendations and their implementation with you.
Leader, Green Party