Yellowknife parents, teachers, talk education renewal

About 100 people — including many teachers and parents — gathered in Yellowknife last night to learn more about plans to revamp the territory's education system.
About 100 people came out to a town hall style meeting in Yellowknife last night hosted by the city's three boards of education. The department of education is looking for feedback about what people want to see changed during the process of education renewal. (CBC)

About 100 people  including many teachers and parents  gathered in Yellowknife last night to learn more about plans to revamp the territory's education system.

The city's three school boards hosted the town hall style meeting. The department of education is looking for feedback about what people want to see change and what they perceive to be the biggest challenges.

John Stewart is director of education renewal and innovation with the territorial government.

He says the education department is trying to shift teaching approaches and curriculum to adapt to better serve students.

“When what's on your cell phone is more important than what's in the library, we're challenged to say how do we do education differently,” Stewart said. “Because if it's about delivery of content, Google wins over teacher every day. So there's a shift of teaching and learning implied in this process as well.”

Stewart says the way students are evaluated also has to adapt to new teaching and learning styles, by finding ways to measure things that are valued.

Stewart says the territory is looking to other models, including Alberta, for ideas.

Standards not being met

Officials say less than a quarter of students in small communities are scoring at or above acceptable standards in English classes.

That's far below regional centres and Yellowknife where 50 to 60 per cent of students are meeting the same standards.

John Dalton is a Catholic school board trustee.

He is concerned the education department may focus attention on the many small community schools at the expense of students in Yellowknife who are also struggling.

“If things are going to tighten, if classes sizes are going to get larger, you think we can survive with fewer teachers and more students in the class to make up some funding that impacts on the development and education standards that we currently have.”

John Stewart says equity will continue to be the department's goal.

Several parents questioned whether the department will have enough money to make the needed changes.

Stewart says they will be asking for money for areas that need it, but he also admitted they don't control the territory's purse strings. 

The CBC's Elizabeth McMillan tweeted from the meeting. Follow her at @elizmcmillan

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