Sug­ges­tions to im­prove ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem

Cape Breton Post - - EDITORIAL -

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

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