Slowly, there has been a grassroots effort to raise awareness of education and its importance to communities. With the Manitoba Education Review announcement, this campaign has increased.
Most Manitoban school boards support reviewing the educational system; from exploring educational standards, reviewing student-learning expectations, and examining the relevance of the current curriculum. Education is what drives an economy and a community.
There are studies that illustrate correlations between educational results with crime rates. A community does not grow and thrive without educated people. All the services communities enjoy, from the nurses or doctors, EMS personnel, firefighters, farmers, electricians, plumbers, business owners, and the list goes on, would not be available without a strong educational system.
An impactful educational review would focus on what needs to change in the educational system that will actually have an impact on the future for all of the citizens of Manitoba. This is where the school boards struggle. What is the government’s exact intent? It has been hard getting concrete, straight answers. The consensus seems to be to look at what happened with health care, which has many boards worried and wondering how is that going to help the educational system.
Are bigger boards going to hear local concerns? Are provincially appointed officials, instead of elected officials, going to strengthen the educational needs of small, local communities? How do these two outcomes improve the education system?
Either one of these actions will decrease the ability of our communities to shape our local schools. Some people say there will be cuts in administration so the money can go elsewhere. Currently administrative costs equal to $0.05 of $1.00, so cuts in administration will not actually save much money. A province-wide cookie-cutter approach to education will not serve communities with unique demographic, geographic, cultural and social needs. This should not be the focus.
The motivation should be what learning outcomes need to change to improve student’s success in school, so they become successful in life. As the world grows and changes, the student-learning expectations have changed. The provincial requirements on curriculum and provincial teaching requirements have been slow to adapt. It is as if education is in a time warp from the past. It is time it is brought into the future.
Along with the pressures of improving student outcomes, and the day-to-day delivery of public education, many school boards and schools are faced with meeting non-traditional educational responsibilities, such as mental-health supports, resources to combat substance abuse, and breakfast programs to ensure children can start their school day ready to learn. If schools have any chance of influencing student success, these areas have to be addressed since they are critical to student success and well-being, and other departments have been unable to keep up with the demand.
The saying “it takes a community to raise a child”, is as true today as it ever has been. School boards and schools need the community’s support and help to enable the children to flourish. Partnerships need to be formed so schools do not need to wear many different hats, such as mental health workers, health care supports, chefs, in addition to trying to teach children. Too much has been off-loaded and the educational system has been forced to pick up the threads.
Communities need to have a voice to express what is important for their children and how education can help achieve the outcomes. Soon the public consultations will begin across Manitoba and, without community input, from business owners to local municipalities, what is important to local areas may be lost. Silence will only mean other voices will be louder, and considered valid for everyone.
“Education is a crop with guaranteed yield in years to come, but only if we together plant the right seed”, Alan Campbell, MSBA President.