How excellent is Nova Scotia’s public education system?
The year 2018 saw numerous and significant changes within the education system.
At the beginning of the year there was Dr. Avis Glaze’s report ‘Raise the Bar: A Coherent and Responsive Education Administrative System for Nova Scotia.’ It was a report with wide-ranging implications, including the elimination of elected English-language school boards and changes to the membership of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union.
At the close of the year there came a poll from that same union showing 46 per cent of those surveyed thought the overall quality of the public education system was ‘excellent/ fair’; a number not so far removed from that of 1992.
During the course of the year there were also labour issues, busing concerns, student assessment data, infrastructure concerns and more. To borrow a line from the great educator Ms. Valerie Frizzle, it was a year in which the powers that be decided to ‘take chances, make mistakes and get messy!’
Amongst it all there were two important developments in 2018 that did not receive the attention they should have and which we must not overlook.
First, there was a recognition of long-held and cherished rights. Dr. Glaze made a poignant remark in her report, writing the ‘fact of the matter is that the Acadian experience is different and has been one of struggle and endurance.’ She wrote of the ‘uniqueness’ of the Conseil Scolaire Acadien provincial (CSAP) and recommended greater French first-language education. The CSAP board passed a motion echoing her position and in a letter to the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development the chair of CSAP stated, ‘I write to request that you direct your staff responsible for implementing Dr. Glaze’s report to carve out the sections of the current Education Act that only pertain to the CSAP, without any amendments, resulting in a “Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial Act.” This would be sufficient for the CSAP to publicly applaud your legislative reform.’ This was realized in March with the passing of Bill 72.
I disagree with the CSAP chair that this was a ‘simple, costless solution’, as he described, but there can be no question that these actions have at last made the Acadian community a full partner in the public education system.
The second development was the introduction of rights yet to be realized. In late March, the Commission on Inclusive Education released the long-awaited report ‘Students First: Inclusive Education that Supports Teaching, Learning, and the Success of all Nova Scotia Students.’ Central to their work was a clear and consistent definition of the term inclusive education.
It is ‘public education that supports the learning, development, and well-being of all students in an equitable, efficient, and effective manner.’ Within that definition, however, there were seven key points, the first of which stated, ‘inclusive education is the right of all students to a quality education in welcoming school communities that support teaching and learning.’
This is a right that is new, at least to see it stated so clearly, and it promises a lot but has not yet been embraced by all or enshrined in legislation.
These two developments are not really so different. The first is about rights realized, the second a call for a right that ought-tobe, and by understanding the former maybe we can find a way to meet the latter.
That seems like a worthy goal for the new year that is upon us.
“To borrow a line from the great educator
Ms. Valerie Frizzle, it was a year in which the powers that be decided to ‘take chances, make mistakes and get messy!’”