As I am gearing up for the November 15 election for school trustee, I thought it would be important to outline what I think are the key issues facing public education and what I will focus on as elected trustee:
THE FUTURE: A Changed Landscape for Education
Globalization and the proliferation of new technologies have forever changed the job market. The cradle-to-grave career that we were raised on in the late 20th century has pretty much evaporated overnight and so it is our challenge to ensure that education – in its broadest sense – prepares the next generation for an era of uncertainty and volatility, but also one of immense opportunity and creativity. The enormous amount of information now offered by the internet requires critical thinking, judgment and the skill set to purpose technology to an individual’s advantage. This is a multidisciplinary task that includes mathematics, languages, social studies and equally important: arts. As many experts have pointed out, our current education system is a 20th century legacy and it is time to move beyond that.
My Goal: I want to ensure our schools are able to adapt to this new global technology driven landscape and are given all the necessary resources to accomplish this. Schools need to contribute to raising creative, resilient, tech savvy, multilingual, global citizens who have the foundational skills to reinvent and have multiple careers.
THE SCALE: Maintain and Improve Current Scale
In this age of cost cutting and rationalization there is a strong tendency to amalgamate structures and processes in the belief that ‘bigger is better’ and that larger operations deliver the efficiencies we need. That may be true in some cases, but merging school districts and closing smaller schools accomplishes the exact opposite of what schools need to do to effectively deliver personal learning experiences: small scale settings where students, parents and staff can work together to deliver the best possible learning outcomes. Smaller organizations allow for flat, open and better communication channels between students and teachers, parents and teachers, teachers and administration.
My Goal: I will strongly support the independence that school districts have now and where possible seek to enhance this independence while at the same time supporting and nurturing smaller schools and their unique learning environments.
OUR SOCIETY: Work to Preserve Civil Society
Our open and democratic society with its freedoms and rights is not a given. A long battle was fought for this by previous generations and today we are witnessing the erosion of such core values as ‘respect’, ‘participation’ and ‘responsibility’. So all of us will have to work for and recreate our civil society every single day. The recent labour conflict revealed that even our carefully calibrated institutions can not always adequately absorb and resolve conflict. We consequently run the risk of not only setting a terrible example for our students, but also of a steady fraying of the social structures that underpin our society.
My Goal: As a school trustee I will make it a top priority that we realize that not a lot is needed to see a breakdown in this social order and that all parties need to work together, every day, to maintain and build out our success as a free, open and shock absorbent society. The art of compromise is central to that.
THE BUDGET: More Learning Support, Courses and Resources
It has been clear that BC schools do not always have the staffing and resources they need to fully deliver the curriculum, in particular if we take into account the changing needs of students and demands of that rapidly changing global landscape mentioned before. Continued investment in staff, technology, facilities, extracurricular activities and materials is essential. Public schools also compete with private schools, homeschooling and other options open to families nowadays. And school districts also compete for talent, so how do we attract the best teachers and administrators?
My Goal: I want to start to seriously look at how we can better leverage our resources and find alternative funding mechanisms so we can deliver what our students need and what our staff requires to deliver the education that enables students to compete and cooperate, but also enables the school district to compete effectively with alternative schooling options.
THE COMMUNITY: Build Partnerships
Relations between provincial and local entities are not always optimal and so it is with school districts. School districts need to increasingly carve out their own identity and build strong local partnerships to complement and improve on that what is funded or given from higher levels. In other words: there is a strong need to build and deepen partnerships locally with municipalities, businesses and community organizations.
My Goal: I want to start developing local initiatives where more joint use of assets (think about the fact that many school buildings remain unused for 50% of the calendar year), and creating partnerships with local profit and non-for-profit entities widen that ability of school districts to operate effectively.