CBCradio
Bookmark and Share

Are Canada's schools falling behind?

On Cross Country Checkup: failing schools?

Canadian children have always excelled in international education surveys ...but the latest one from the OECD suggests China and other Asian countries have surged ahead.


What do you think?  Are Canada's education systems the best they can be?  Does Canada risk falling behind?

With guest host David Gray.

 

Toll-free number 1-888-416-8333 (works only during the broadcast)


Guests and Links      Mail       Download mp3 (right click and choose 'Save Target As')    

Listen here:

Download Flash Player to view this content.


Introduction

 

Anyone who's ever attended a teacher-parent meeting at a child's school knows that on the way in all you really hope for is that your little scholar stacks up well enough in comparison to the other kids in class.

If you're told your little one is a genius, that's great. But mostly you just want the news that they're not falling behind, you're not part of the problem, and your child has as much chance of success as the next kid.

Then you smile and nod at the art projects, and move on.

Well that's pretty much what happened this week for Canada, if on a much larger scale.

Today we want to talk about education and the quality of our schools. A new survey suggests that Canada's schools are doing well compared to the rest of the planet, but being surpassed by some countries such as China and South Korea.

How did Canada rate? Against 65 other countries, Canada came fifth in reading, seventh in science and eighth in mathematics.

Pretty good, compared to the rest of the class.

Now, Canada's schools have always fared well in international surveys, coming out consistently near the top ...and this study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the OECD suggests Canada's schools are not doing any worse ...it's just some countries have found a way to do even better.

Which raises the uncomfortable question: if we want to continue to compete, do we have to raise our game?

And that's our question this week: "Are Canada's schools falling behind?"

This study is done every three years for the OECD ..and it looks at the performance of half a million 15 year olds around the globe in reading, mathematics and science.

The snapshot raises many questions about the way education is approached in Canada ...questions about which are the successful practices and which ones are not so good. It also identifies certain challenges faced by all countries ....for example, girls in every country perform better at reading than boys.

Across Canada there is some variability between provinces. Alberta and Quebec coming out clearly on top, while Prince Edward Island and Manitoba did not make the same honor roll as their provincial peers.

What are the top performers doing right that other provinces could adopt? Is this partly a resource issue?

Canada's systems of education ...and it is impossible to call it one system ...have certain distinguishing features that make them an example for other countries. The importance of bilingualism is one. The number of immigrant children for whom both English and French are second languages.

Also, Canada's systems are more accessible to a wider range of people from all socio-economic backgrounds. Schools here are for everybody, not just the well-to-do as they are in some countries.

We want to know what you think.

Do you worry about the quality of education your child is getting? How important is it that Canada beat other countries in surveys such as this? Are studies like this useful? What are the things that Canada's schools do well ...and where can they improve?

And if you think Canada does have to improve ...who has to pull up their socks? The children? Their parents? Teachers? Administrators ...or the government?

Our topic this week: "Are Canada's schools falling behind ...and do we have to raise our game?"

I'm David Gray ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius satellite radio channel 137 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.


Guests

  • Kate Hammer
    Education reporter, Globe and Mail

  • Dr Paul Cappon
    FPresident and CEO of the Canadian Council on Learning. He was a vice-president at Laurentian University, a former director-general of the Council of Ministers of Education of Canada and a former professor of medicine at McGill University.

  • Neeta Kumar-Britten
    Teacher at Sydney Academy High School, Sydney, NS.

  • Allan Hardy
    Principal at Greenwood College School, Toronto

     




    Links

    OECD study

    Statistics Canada

    Globe and Mail

    CBC.ca

    National Post

    Macleans magazine

    Montreal Gazette

    Vancouver Sun

    Financial Times

    The Atlantic monthly

    Washington Post

    The Economist


    E-Mail

     

    I was shocked when I recently visited Kenya to learn that almost all the Canadian children I knew who went to study there were forced to go behind by at least two years behind, than the level of education they were in Canada. I was approached by many school principals in Mombassa asking me of what is really going on in Canada, a country they thought would have a high level of education system.

    They were astonished to see how poorly educated these Canadian children were. Even one principal jokingly said to me that he even though that there was another third world country called Canada which he did not know of. It is shameful to see how low we went in educating our little ones.

    For me, I don't think it is the education itself to blame for the failing of our young ones. The knowledge is always there in the books. As a matter of fact, education has become easily accessible these days - more than it used to in old days. What is to blame however is how  down we have gone in instilling morals and good conducts in our children. Before a child learns anything, he or she needs a decipline. The children of today have no decipline of whatsoever to guide them through their lives.

    As a result, they have failed miserably to keep up with the education, after considering everything to be cool, while not realizing that they have become fools themselves in believing so.

    Abubakar Kasim,
    Toronto. 

     

    As an Ontario high school teacher, I grow more concerned on a daily basis with our inability to serve children for whom the typical classroom environment just isn't working. We don't have a pathway for these students (mostly boys), and it's costing us financially and socially.

    Why can we not examine systems such as Germany's where there's a 100% apprenticeship pathway right from the end of elementary school that gives students a skills pathway that can lead to a very rewarding career? Our Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program pales by comparison and is vastly limited in the numbers of students we can put into this program. A major limiting factor is the various trade unions who put restrictions on the numbers of students they accept.

    We need skilled tradespeople in this country in a major way. We will need lots of these skilled people over the next few decades.

    Let's get away from the traditional classroom paradigm that says that all students must learn in this environment. Let's have the courage to look at radically different, work-focused alternate education modalities. Just taking all the behavioural kids and putting them together in a room all day in a so called 'Alternative Education' programs is not bringing these students the success they deserve.


    Gordon,
    Southern Ontario.

     

    Canadian schools are doing well to educate our kids, however the quality of the education is slowly slipping away. My niece currently attends the same public school I attended ten years ago. She is advanced in reading and math but there currently are no advanced classes where she goes to school. When I attended the same school, some of the most important classes I took were the advanced classes. More focus needs to be placed on educating these children further than the curriculum calls for if they are above the normal levels. If this was done than their could be more focus on children who need to be brought up to speed.  

    Zak Young,
    Windsor, Ontario

     

    How can Canada compare education standards against China and Korea? Are there hundreds of thousands wanting to immigrate to these countries? (Not a chance) In Canada, we have a huge problem with first, second and third generation families who do not speak English or French. We cater to too much diversity. Money and teacher allocation is spread too thin to service even the 3 R's.

    Christine Charbonneau,
    Orleans, Ontario

     

    I think that what Canada should be doing is looking at the countries that are doing better than Canada in educating their children. Finland, for example, has led the world in the FISA results, and the Finns will tell you that one important reason for their success has been that Finland has integrated its universal child-care system with its education system, socializing their children and beginning the education process at an early age. I think that here in Quebec, our more widely accessible day-care system, and the drive to produce a bilingual generation  may be giving our children over children in other parts of Canada.

    Jack Schultz,
    Pointe Claire, Quebec.

     

    One of our sons attended Nancy Campbell Collegiate Institute which is a private school in London Ontario. Besides being rated 10 out 10 by the Fraser Institute, it excels in creating World Citizens with it's 19 moral capabilities and fifty hours a year of volunteering. NCCI graduates are ready for University and have critical skills for participating in our complex world.

    Josy Britton,
    London, Ontario.


    So ironic this is, after spending time today with other teachers on the phone about the low standards that are mandated by the Ontario government in the secondary system.  It is not uncommon for students to receive 50% in a course in high school and they haven't even shown up once. Teachers don't want all the paperwork and the meetings with administration to justify a failing grade. And the admins just want to uphold ministry guidelines. By time these students get to college, they continue to expect to pass for doing nothing, to be able to redo tests, assignments, etc. that they didn't do on time or well enough to pass and college professors are pulling their hair out over the attitudes. It's such a sad state of affairs, and people outside of the system have no idea.  The government has done no service to the students of this province.

    Julie,
    Pickering, Ontario.

     

    It seems to me that from the time we've had a public education system, people have complained about education and no-one seems to be able to fix it. A caller complained that we aren't encouraging kids to think critically. I would submit that my education 30 years ago seemed bent on discouraging critical thinking and creativity. It hasn't improved since then, but let's not wail that the education system is going to pot. It never was good, and it's still not good and as long as we overcrowd our classrooms, teachers won't have the time to accomodate students.

    We also need a better way to reward good teaching, not to mention a way to evaluate teachers. As long as teachers are in a union and subject to union ways of protecting seniority, it will be difficult to remove poor teachers. And believe me, there are a lot of them. Even today, I know people going into teaching because they want their summers off.

    Barb Colvin,
    Calgary.


    Your second guest seemed to blame technology, or childrens' focus on technology as the cause of bad spelling, punctuation etc. We can't blame technology. Teachers teach kids, not computers. The problem causing falling literacy levels is the reduction in the number of teachers, education assistants, librarians and other professionals in the school system. Government cutbacks cause this stagnation in educational achievement. That is the real problem.

    Tina Neale
    Victoria British Columbia,

     

    If you understand what the schools are meant to do then you see they are doing a pretty good job. Schools are meant to free parents to work and be away from home. Schools are meant to stream future citizens into their future categories: nare-do-wells; workers and middle management. The school system is meant to teach the future citizen the value of doing what they are told when they are told. Students are not encouraged to follow their passions and explore the world and learn about the world through the resources available. They are expected to do, stop, do something else, stop, ect. And despite any expressed intentions to help them explore their worlds, they are rated by their abilities to regurgitate what has been put in front of them Are the schools serving society by nurturing thoughtful and resourceful citizens? They're not meant to.

    Winston Abertnethy,
    Toronto, Ontario.

     

    When the college professor stated that many of his students didn't know the mechanics of writing, I felt I must respond. I've been a teacher in public elementary schools in Ontario for many years and the prevailing philosophy for decades has been that the mechanics of writing are not important enough to be emphasized. It is seen to be boring and unnecessary and squashing the student's natural expression. The whole language philosophy that has influenced elementary education in Ontario since the 80s believes that reading and writing are a natural process, like listening and speaking and if a student focuses on what he or she wants to communicate, the mechanics will come naturally in time.
    Mechanics are to be modelled to the student and mentioned incidentally only. Elementary teachers are under a great deal of pressure to not teach spelling or grammar directly and certainly not make it something important. You will also find no times tables in the math curriculum of Ontario. The result of this is that teachers now coming into the system know nothing of the patterns or rules of grammar or spelling and couldn't teach them if they were allowed to. The pendulum swung from too much rote learning when I went to school to too little now but seems to have got stuck. there, defying common sense. Perhaps falling OECD scores will help it swing where it belongs, which is in the middle.

    Kay McLeod,
    Toronto, Ontario.

     

    What is even more shocking is that we have the highest paid school teachers in the world who work only 9 months a year. This proves that paying teachers more will not help

    John Arakelian,
    Mississauga, Ontario.

     

    I am a lawyer and father of  adoptive children. Regardless of what other countries have done, the reality is that our school system is no longer teaching the basis of reading, writing and arithmetic. More emphasis on actually learning to spell properly, using appropriat grammar etc needs to be reintegrated into our educational system. Moreover, our system of "passing" children on so as not to "harm" their self esteem rather than holding them back to ensure they have the basics is wrong

    Terry Hudson,
    Smithers, British Columbia.

     

    What nonsense! 10 points out of 500+ means a drop over 3 years of 2% which could be measurement error, especially given the different societies and systems that are being compared and when you think of the increased percentage of those graduating from secondary school and the ethnic and linguistic diversity in parts of Canada. Post secondary teachers can complain but the numbers accepted into their institutions are so much greater than they were went I was in high school.

    International comparisons have their uses as Dr.Kappon notes and can counter naysayers who rely on evidence by anecdote but they are limited to a narrow range of skills
    Tolerance of others, democratic behaviors, social responsibility and acceptance of the responsibilities of living in a multicultural, multi faith, pluralistic democracy are important.

    what would happen if we could assess these key competencies? While we can always do better and should never rest on our laurels. Let's get with the 21st century, not the 1950s. Of course we could go back and accept the 70% of students who did not finish high school. There are always things that need fixing
    so we should fix them not fix blame.

    John Myers, Curriculum Instructor
    Ontario Institute for Studies in Education,
    University of Toronto

     

    Back in the day, the Industrial Revolution was desperate for people that could keep the records of commerce and read the blueprints to build the factories and run the machines. So mass education was developed with the sole mandate of making masses of people employable by the industrialists and that meant simply teaching the 3 rs.
     
    Here we are over 300 years later and that mandate has not changed in all that time. Things like critical thinking, social skills, communication skills and a host of other much needed subjects are either ignored entirely or only paid lip service in educational curriculum all around the world.  
     
    William Clegg,
    Gabriola Island, British Columbia

     

    I am concerned that high schools have become toxic environments where pop culture and the latest expensive fashion takes precedence over substance. When my own children recently went through the system, I was shocked by the way young women walked the halls in what seemed like a bad rap video.  Aggressive sexual comments prevailed daily and it was a disappointment to find out how easily children were sold drugs right on school property, by drug dealers who visited at lunchtime and sometimes sold right out of their cars. All the kids knew about it and even though smoking was not allowed on school property, many kids did it anyway because the teachers wanted to be 'friends' with the kids and didn't want to rat out on them. This school was in what is considered a 'good' area of town. Even when these issues were brought to the principal's attention, the issues didn't get seriously addressed for fear of giving the school a bad reputation (principals are on a career path and the bottom line is they don't want bad press for their school, so covering things up may serve their needs better). More needs to be done in prevention work because most kids start smoking and doing drugs when they enter high school, which can get in the way of studying.

    Megg
    Victoria, British Columbia.

     

    A recent study in Canada reported in Ottawa papers that in areas found objective evidence that regions of the country such as Ottawa where a high level of bilingual education had falling test scores on basic subjects compared to historical data in the same area. Overemphasis in money and time on French language education at the primary and secondary level account for our falling international scores on basic subjects. Canada is simply spending too much education time on learning a language of limited commercial value to achieve political ends. Causes are obvious. The short supply of qualified and experienced French teachers has lowered standards in teaching and we have the objective results to prove it. The experience level of English teachers is falling and they are being replaced by inexperienced French teachers.

    I support bilingual education at a reasonable level, not at the level of full time French education at the expense of basic subjects and qualified and experienced teachers. When will common sense refocus our education system on economic success and not on trying to win seats in Quebec?

    Brian Casey,
    Ottawa, Ontario,

     

    This is an continuous whine. Somebody (not me) is not teaching Our children as well as they should, and cut my taxes at the same time. It is obviously more resources should be put into the educating of our next generation, we just are not doing enough, no matter how much we talk about it. This is the story that has been going on since I was a kid, a long time ago. Watching TV is going to destory all education in a few years. That was in 1955, so we are already dead and gone.

    Money and lifestyle is the measure of success, An education has not been shown to be a real good plan to become wealthy. The media and those that quote it continuously, say and tell us that sports and computer programming is were the money and good life are. If you go to University, the news reports say, you are crushed with huge debts, forever, with no salary to pay them back. There is no reporting on salaries that  managers, lawyers, doctors get and their education level, which is required to get this job, and the quality of their lives.

    Ed Peter,
    Nanaimo, British Columbia.

     

    I recently read that an Italian pedagogist, after 20 years of research, had proven that children who do not learn cursive writing, fall behind in all academic matters. Two Ameican researchers back her up, adding to her findings that these children deprived of cursive, also do badly socially and creatively.

    On another note, as a former student, former teacher and actual observer, I am convinced that if I were sitting in a classroom today, with all its colour and clutter, noise and distractions, with children facing each other instead of a teacher, I might very well have gone out of my mind as a student. How can any child concentrate in such an environment?

    Victoria Cronin,
    Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia.

     

    As a teacher in public schools and a tutor of students in independent schools, I have found that my students attending the independent schools are the students and schools performing best on the PISA international tests. Most of the students whom I tutor are attending the pricey private schools. They have tutors for academic subjects, for music theory and for any A.P. (advanced placement) subjects they enroll in. This is especially true if they are planning to attend American universities. I find that these students are motivated to learn, they are encouraged and supported by their parents. Even with their motivation and their private schooling they have the extra boost in areas not covered in classes by their tutors.

    As far as whether comparison is valid, I think that it is valid to look at how much Finland spends on its pre-school care and its  elementary school (beginning at age 7) to grade 12. Here in B.C. we are having many 'international' students attending our public schools as international students. International students are  not supposed to have any academic or emotional problems, however, close investigation shows that many have learning problems and that is why they are not living and attending school in Korea.

    Mary Alexander,
    Vancouver, British Columbia.

     

    After retiring from teaching in the Public School System, mainly teaching inner-city and/or handicapped students, I continued teaching, this time high school on a First Nations Reserve in the north.  My main observation from all those years and experience is that we are ignoring the average student.  A gifted student will learn if you lock him in a closet (I am using him here to mean either him or her).  Most of my time was spent on those students that required more help than the others.  I do not begrudge them this help.  They need it and they deserve it.  However, who is left out while I was working with those students were those students who were able to plug along for themselves, but if they had had the same one-on-one help I was giving to the others, they would have made great strides.  Unfortunately that is more than 50% of the class.  Those are the students that will be, as adults, running society.  Bringing students that are at an "F" level to a "D" is admirable and necessary, but what about those that, with the same amount of help, could go from a "C" to a "B" or and "A"?

    John Ross,
    Vanscoy, Saskatoon,

     

    I received my formal education in Finland.  I wish to add a short comment to the conversation:  I don't remember ever once being asked to participate in a standardized test involving multiple choice options, when going  to school.  Without exception, we were expected to demonstrate our understanding the concepts we were learning by explaining them in our own words.

    Rijitta, Puhjo, 
    Victoria, British Columbia.

     

    I teach English and Social Studies to adutls and I have seen the deterioration of language skills and this concerns me about the future of Canada's economic and political performance. Criticial thinking is essential for any citizen to engage actively in a democracy. Facility with langauge is a behavioral hallmark of critical thinking.

    Most of my Canadian-based students have dropped out of school because of dysfunctional family, poverty and learning disability.  Almost to a person, these Canadians between the ages of 18 to 55 do not know basic grammar, nor basic writing skills, nor basic skills in non-personal arguement. Their general knowledge of their own country's history and geography is well below grade 9  level.

    So what has happened here? The main factors, especially here in British Columnbia, are constant federal and provincial cutbacks to education over the last twenty years. To say that all students have equal access is an illusion. Socio-economic class of students is probably the most important factor in determining whether a student will complete school withgarde 12 skills. Privatization further threatens the democratic basis of our education systems, because more government funding in BC has been allocated to private schools; in 2009 private schools got twice as much money per capita than public schools, ie.  public schools 13% budget increase, private schools 26% budget increase. In fact school board management has allocated more funds to computer labs than books, maps and other instructional resources. Because of 20 years of government cutbacks, libraries, special needs, sports and arts have been downsized if not cut from most school curricula. By the way B.C. has a 40% high school drop out rate plus the highest rate of child poverty.

    The focus of teaching methods have downplayed basic grammar, numeracy and thinking in favor of making flashy web pages. To pull our weight internationally will not be accomplished by a general population who cannot meet basic grade level expcetations upon grade 12 graduation. We underfund public education at our peril. Enough is enough. All of us must create the political will to put more resources into our public education system or slip further on the world stage and at home into a country of poorly educated and disenfranchised people.

    Gail Harwood,
    Vancouver, British Columbia.

     

    I've been listening to you show this afternoon and was intrigued by the lack of discussion of the role of parents in how students are performing at school. The last caller (an educator from Nova Scotia) mentioned sitting her boys down on her lap at a very young age and looking /reading at books. As a busy mom of 4 children (3 boys) we always take the time to read to and with our children - almost every night.  Yes, this does take time but we feel that it also encourages a love of not only books but learning as well. I, too, have to take the book away from my almost 10 year old at bed time so that he goes to sleep instead of reading that "one more chapter mom". Our children also see us reading. We as parents are role models for their learning as well. Yes, our children go to school, but they also learn at home as you live life (for example - using their allowance to figure out how long they will have to save to buy something they want, pulling out the dictionary to find out the meaning of a word, or simply matching utensils, sock etc at a very young age). Learning takes place in all environments, including home where parents need to be involved.

    As well, I do feel that students will perform better when there is a strong relationship between parents and teachers - this only benefits the student.

    Kim Thiessen,
    Winnipeg, Manitoba,

     

    I am a Public School teacher in the past I taught grade three for six years. When ever I hear the word standardized tests and what is done with the results I could scream. Standardized testing should be scrapped. When our students take the EQAO test in both grade three and grade six as well as in grade nine. Every student in those specific grade levels are subject to testing gardless of their academic ability. Students who speak another language are expected to struggle with the test. Students with learning disabilities are expected to sit the test too. It is absolutley cruel to put this amount of pressure on our students.

    As for the test results is it a true measure of a child's academic ability and their true potential. As well it is not a true measure of how well each school is achieving academically especially when ESL and Special Education students test results are combined with the test results of the rest of the students.
    The millions of dollars spent on standardized test would be better spent in the classroom on additional support in order for our children to achieve their full potenial.

    Jen Burke,
    Woodbridge, Ontario.

     

    When we speak about "no fail", it's important to make a distinction between elementary and secondary school. At the secondary level, "no fail" doesn't mean "pass" - it means we'll see you again next semester. Students get an incomplete rather than a "fail" - but they certainly don't receive a credit until they've completed the requirements of the class. Getting an incomplete actually raises the bar because it eliminates the game-playing involved with squeaking by with a 51% overall, because students must demonstrate proficiency in all of the requirements.

    Beth Campbell-Duke,
    Toronto, Ontario.

     

    What often seems to be missing from these discussions is the role of Arts education, and especially of music education. Our children attend schools in the Simcoe County District School Board. There are almost no music teachers in the County schools. Instead, there are Planning Time teachers, and if they have the skill and the Principal is supportive - something increasingly rare in an age of standardized testing. They may deliver a music program. I don't fault classroom teachers, but am amazed that this board of education places absolutely no value on music education, if only because arts & music education do seem, empirically, to enhance literacy and numeracy scores.

    Rob Ruttan,
    Toronto, Ontario.

     

    I am a retired teacher of 10 years. I do believe that our government must make education a priority. The level of the classroom is at the level of the weakest link and if the classroom is crowded and has special needs students, it is impossible for one teacher to address the many levels of the varied levels of the students. Wouldn't it be great if Canada was renown for excellent education instead of a neghbour of the United States.

    Carol Dennison,
    Campbell River, British Columbia.

     

    I was educated entirely outside Canada but my daughter went through almost all her schooling here. I have worked with a great variety of young people, many of whom had recently completed their education, and I have often been appalled at the poor grasp they have of both English and Math. I feel that there is something lacking in the system that allows students to complete twelve years in these institutions, and not be able to apply themselves in the basic use of this learning.

    Raymond Firer,
    Winnipeg, Manitoba.

     

    I'm listening to someone defend failing kids -how the system isn't being responsible to students when it's not allowed to fail them. When you fail kids you are only giving them the chance to catch up. That hits home and I'm angry. I was failed twice, in grade 1 and 2. Throughout life I've never been able to catch up. I went through school and life after school with no confidence. Failing kids is suppose to be responsible! Is it responsible that I still wonder why teachers did that to me?

    Steven,
    Kelowna, British Columbia.

     

    I have 3 degrees in Education, 13 years teaching experience in public schools, 8 in ESL and 4 at post- secondary.  It is on this experience  that I base my comments. Parents created the no-fail system through their lack of ability to accept the "Johnny" is not prepared for the next grade, and need to accept the fact that, legally, parents are responsible for the education of their child, not teachers.  That is the loophole through which student, teacher, administrative and institutional accountability and integrity escapes. The reason students need homework is not only to reinforce skills taught and learned in school, but to develop self-discipline and self-directedness as well as to inform parents about their child's competence in those skills. Then, as the term progresses, it is the parents' responsibllty to decide whether the child goes on or remains in that grade to improve their skills. Further, this whole issue of passing and failing goes away at high school when skills do decide whether the child goes from one level to the next in separate subjects.  Prior to high school, the solution certainly is"Montessori" ungraded but rather achievement based system. Grades are totally artificial in any case since there are 5-7 ability levels in any "class group" of students.  All students would benefit from a non-graded system. 
        
    In terms of basic skills, I would suggest people think about Noam Chomsky's language acquisition device theory that suggests we as humans are best able to learn certain kinds of things at certain times in our development, speaking, reading, writing mechanics, organization of thougtht and logical development of ideas. Adults are not interested in spending their time learning to spell. Learning about technology is not bells and whistles as your first caller, Mr. zeisman suggests, but technology and literature can be used as tools to teach students observational skills not just for reading but also for writing.
       
    As a high school English teacher, I too share the concern that a month of a semester, of one semester, is devoted to teaching to the test, a waste of time. As a parent I am very concerned that my children spent several weeks of their K-12 years writing standardized tests I was not informed were coming, and could get no information about later. This speaks to the lack of accountability of my school division and others in Maniotba.

    Elaine Masur,
    Birtle, Manitoba. 

     

    No discussion of educational standards is complete without discussing disabled students and how funding cuts and inequitable court decisions in Canada affect the success of students, and the corresponding burden on teachers and families. Curriculum also needs to speak to a culturally diverse student body with different personal histories and experiences. Since your program is also making the link between education and employment take a look at the low rates of employment for people with disabilities. These systemic problems on the whole need first to be discussed and not ignored before they can be solved.
     
    Gail Nestel,
    Victoria, British Columbia.

     

    It has always puzzled  me why our leaders do not seem to recognize the full importance of a very highly educated population. Any country really has only ONE major natural resource, and that is it's people. In the long run higher education levels across the board in can only mean a more productive, innovative, inventive, responsive, mobile, dynamic population and higher levels of employment, more taxes paid, better health levels,less crime,less dysfunction, The higher the overall education level of the population, the better the position of the country to deal with the increasingly dynamic and challenging world situation. Put resources to education and problems will gradually take care of themselves.

    Chris Reid,
    Toronto, Ontario.

     

    I'm 24, I know many people who just entered teaching. Some have always wanted to be a teacher but most of them failed into teaching or chose teaching for summers off. You can't fail into medicine or engineering but you can fail into teaching. Then we tell teachers they have to teach to the curriculum because they don't have the ability to teach creatively. Raise the standard of teachers and you can relax the curriculum and you will get better results. Also, students are not taught to be responsible. If you don't hand in your work; you should fail. I am small business owner and I can tell you that I will not pay for an employee who doesn't do their work to the best of their ability. The real world isn't going to coddle these kids, so we should teach them there are consequences to sloppy work.

    Corrine O'Neill,
    Kitchener, Ontario.

     

    I am a grade 4 teacher in Vancouver. I am angry and frustrated at what I have been hearing. I have been teaching for 10 years and the climate and attitudes against teachers in this country is awful. Funding for public schools is at an all time low in BC, and teachers are having to do more and more with less and less. In spite of what a previous caller stated, having high marks, in order to get into an education program in university, does not a great teacher make. A great teacher is someone who has life experience, who cares and loves their job and their students, who is passionate about what they do, and who inspires her students to want to learn.

    Helen French,
    Vancouver, British Columbia.

     

     Since my son were born 10 years ago, I have been following a parenting forum based in Shanghai. For me, it was no surprise at all that Shanghai students excel in the Pisa test. The child's education is the most important thing for most Chinese families. The time, effort, and money they put into their child's education are way more than average Canadian families.  The high demands for the same thing has created a very competitive environment and the benchmark to evaluate the students has been pushed to an extreme.

    My sons are both in elementary school, so I can only say for the elementary school education. I applaud Canadian schools for having done a good job in educating my sons, not only academically but also socially. The only subject that I think has plenty of room for advance is Mathematics. If an elementary student is encourage to read at least 20 minutes everyday, why a little practice of mathematics is deemed as torture?

    Sue King,
    Red Deer, Alberta.

     

    I do not blame the teachers or the students. Take a look at the programs coming from different provincial education ministries.  An English final exam last year from either our school board or the province was for students to write a text message. Also, High school classes are regularly over 32 students. Of this, a teacher might have 10-12 special needs students, many of them working at a totally different grade level. i.e. a student who can`t count past 10 in a high school math course.

    Lisa Morin,
    Montreal, Quebec.

     



    • Commenting has been disabled for this entry.