How ex­cel­lent is Nova Sco­tia’s pub­lic education sys­tem?

The Amherst News - - OP-ED - Adam Davies is a for­mer mem­ber of the Chignecto-Cen­tral Re­gional School Board.

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!’”

Adam Davies Education

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