Suggestions to improve education system
Regarding the current state of education in Nova Scotia, we have four-year-olds joining six-year-olds in Grade Primary and each year all are passed to the next grade no matter what they have learned.
They are given custom-made classroom lessons to keep moving them through the grades, but it doesn’t matter if assignments are completed or if they attend class. This can lead to discipline problems, and then we are surprised when all students are given one standardized test and the overall results are poor.
On Wednesday, teachers will be voting on a contract agreed upon by their executive and the provincial government. Part of that contract states a panel will be appointed at a cost of $20 million to study what can be done to fix classroom problems. Why doesn’t the government just make some decisions and fix the problems? It could mean the difference between teachers accepting a contract or voting it down again.
Last week I sat down with some local teachers and we talked about changes that could be made to make things work better for students, and most would not cost a penny. Everyone may not agree with these ideas, but they are rooted in the best interests of students. They are as follows: 1. Have children start school at age 6 (by the end of December in the year they start). Some countries have children starting at age 7 because they are more developed and ready to learn. Pre-school supports can be offered to parents to help in that development.
2. Restore an attendance policy. Require students to attend 90 per cent of classes outside of snow days and excused absences. Allow discretion for students who are doing well.
3. Require children to meet outcomes to pass. In this way, children will only advance when they are ready, and it will help to eliminate the many custom-made classroom lessons which lead to teachers trying to teach five classes in one classroom at the same time.
4. Give teachers the power to establish and enforce rules for homework and assignments. These are tools teachers have always had to bring students along in their development until someone got the bright idea to eliminate consequences for students. Life has consequences. Part of education should be teaching students how to make good decisions that benefit them.
5. If marks and attendance don’t matter for students, why should discipline? Changes made to attendance and marking policies will lead to better student behaviour.
6. Technology like “Power School” should be eliminated from grades primary to 6. It is unnecessary and will save government money. Keep it for core subjects like math and science for grades 7 and 8. This number-based grade reporting system has no benefit for students at these ages based on what they need to learn.
7. Eliminate testing and data collection designed for the purpose of measuring student performance for school boards. One example is “Literacy in Progress.” While the aim to make sure children are learning to read is important, having a requirement that students meet outcomes before they pass to the next grade satisfies that measurement in a much simpler and more effective way. It also save teachers time which could be better spent teaching.
8. Eliminate standardized testing. Teachers can get back to teaching students to learn as opposed to teaching them to pass a test. Studies have shown standardized tests lead children to avoid risk taking and can cause boredom and fear. Not everyone was born wired the same way. Teaching and learning need to be given creative freedom.
So why not save on the $20 million study and make a few simple changes today that will make a difference? Allan MacMaster, MLA Inverness