Guest Opinion By Garth E. Staples
Procrastination, bureaucratic intransigence and lack of political will continue to take their toll on Island students. PISA scores confirm the educational crisis on P.E.I..
Classroom teachers, students and future employers are being cheated by the system. The system is based on the concept that all students and teachers are equal therefore all students receive the same programmes and learn under the same process. This of course is failed logic.
Special Educational programs must be available to the gifted child as well as the child with special needs. Special classes must be part of the learning structure.
Social promotion, a system practised in P.E.I., treats all students the same and rewards them with a diploma or certificate with the same level of competency. What a shock when these students are confronted with real life situations called higher learning and employment.
Teacher training must be revamped. Too many future teachers without an aptitude for teaching (a word from the ’50s-’60s) are admitted to university-based programmes; too many graduate with degrees in education without proper competency- based assessments. All new graduates must receive appropriate supervision and probationary periods before being confirmed as qualified teachers. Assessments must be carried out by an independent body.
The Teachers Federation (union) must be divorced from policy development and the management of educational programs.
Schools must be granted more opportunities to manage the needs of their clientele. They must bear more responsibility for using the resources given to them as determined by the local environment.
The Department of Education must stay out of the classroom. Its role should be to provide infrastructure, research and broad objectives for the system.
The minister must provide leadership based on meaningful consultations with parents, staff and political leaders in other jurisdictions. Students and their parents cannot wait for another 10 years to see results.
Recently, educational representatives took to the media with the incredible message that PISA scores are the result of the lack of attendance by students and supervision by parents. This is nothing less than a smokescreen in an attempt to deflect attention from the sorry state created under their watch. Made in P.E.I. standardized tests by the department, administered and evaluated by the department should be abolished and replaced with nationally approved tests.
Details at this time are not important to a system requiring change; principles are. There are a host of interested, sincere and competent Islanders ready to provide the structure for change. Let’s give them a chance.
Let’s find at least one good reason why it should be done.
Garth E. Staples is a former special education teacher