Class size and teacher short­ages top list of B.C. ed­u­ca­tion gripes

The Prince George Citizen - - Opinion - MARIO CANSECO

With the school year about to end, it is a good time to take a look at the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. For years, Bri­tish Columbians have been asked about their per­cep­tions of schools, class sizes and ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment and teach­ers.

This time, Re­search Co. chose to re­view the feel­ings and per­cep­tions of par­ents who have a child en­rolled in Kin­der­garten, el­e­men­tary school (Grades 1 to 7) or high school (Grades 8 to 12) in B.C. The re­sults out­line a high level of sat­is­fac­tion with cer­tain as­pects of the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, as well as some wor­ries that dif­fer from re­gion to re­gion.

Across the prov­ince, 83 per cent of par­ents who have chil­dren en­rolled in a K-12 pro­gram say the ex­pe­ri­ence of their child with the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem has been “very pos­i­tive” or “mod­er­ately pos­i­tive.” Only 14 per cent of par­ents de­scribe the sit­u­a­tion as “mod­er­ately negative” or “very negative.”

In a note­wor­thy twist, par­ents who have a child in pub­lic school have a slightly higher level of sat­is­fac­tion with the cur­rent state of af­fairs (85 per cent) than those whose chil­dren at­tend a pri­vate school (79 per cent).

Still, this high level of sat­is­fac­tion does not mean that ev­ery­thing is per­fect. When par­ents are asked about the biggest prob­lem fac­ing the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem right now, the an­swer that heads the list is “large class sizes” at 21 per cent, fol­lowed by “short­age of teach­ers” at 16 per cent.

The third spot is for “lack of safety in schools and bul­ly­ing” at 15 per cent, fol­lowed by “out­dated cur­ricu­lum” at 12 per cent, “in­ad­e­quate re­sources and fa­cil­i­ties for chil­dren” at 11 per cent, “labour dis­putes be­tween teach­ers and the gov­ern­ment” also at 11 per cent and “bu­reau­cracy and poor man­age­ment” at nine per cent.

The pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with large class sizes reaches a peak in north­ern B.C. (30 per cent). Par­ents on Van­cou­ver Island are more likely to ex­press dis­may at an out­dated cur­ricu­lum (24 per cent) than their coun­ter­parts in other re­gions.

The per­cep­tion of a sys­tem that is bu­reau­cratic and poorly man­aged is high­est in south­ern B.C.

(23 per cent).

Par­ents in the Fraser Val­ley are de­cid­edly more crit­i­cal of the re­sources and fa­cil­i­ties that their chil­dren are cur­rently en­joy­ing (17 per cent).

Class sizes have long been men­tioned as one of the sig­nif­i­cant is­sues that need to be ad­dressed. In the sur­vey, six in 10 par­ents of K-12 pupils in Bri­tish Columbia (60 per cent) de­scribed their child’s cur­rent class size as “about right.” Three in 10 (31 per cent) say the class is “too big,” while six per cent claim it is “too small.”

North­ern B.C. has the largest pro­por­tion of par­ents of K-12 pupils who be­lieve class sizes are too big (43 per cent) while Metro Van­cou­ver has the low­est (28 per cent). Only 13 per cent of par­ents whose kids are en­rolled in a pri­vate school think the class sizes are too big, com­pared with 34 per cent for par­ents of kids in pub­lic schools.

When asked about what their chil­dren are learn­ing, most par­ents are content. More than two-thirds say they are sat­is­fied with the qual­ity of in­struc­tion their child is get­ting in four key sub­jects: English (73 per cent), sci­ence (72 per cent), so­cial stud­ies (also 72 per cent) and math (68 per cent).

In ad­di­tion, the level of dis­sat­is­fac­tion from the par­ents whose chil­dren are re­ceiv­ing sec­ond-lan­guage in­struc­tion is 29 per cent for French and 28 per cent for other lan­guages.

The sur­vey shows that, when it comes to the opin­ions of par­ents, the de­bate about ed­u­ca­tion in the prov­ince is not dom­i­nated by labour dis­putes.

Still, the fact that ev­ery re­gion of Bri­tish Columbia pointed to a dif­fer­ent ma­jor dif­fi­culty with the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem sug­gests that the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment will be com­pelled to con­sider lo­cal needs when plan­ning for the fu­ture.

Mario Canseco is the pres­i­dent of Re­search Co. Re­sults are based on an on­line study con­ducted from May 20 to May 28 among 700 par­ents in Bri­tish Columbia who have a child en­rolled in Kin­der­garten, el­e­men­tary school or high school.

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