Elementary school classroom

P.E.I. students spent 47 fewer hours per year in the classroom than the national average in 2010-11.

A re-jigged school calendar for 2014-15 will allow more time for professional development for Island teachers, but it still leaves P.E.I. students with far fewer hours in the classroom than the Canadian average.

The calendar includes 181 instructional days, the same number as 2013-14. But that number is lower than previous years, which had 184 or 185. A spokesperson for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development says in the past parent-teacher interview days were counted as instructional days, which accounts for part of the drop.

Education Minister Alan McIsaac announced the new school calendar Tuesday, reiterating previous statements that the province needs to work on improving the quality of education in the school system by focusing on teacher training.

Alan McIsaac - Custom

The province is focusing on quality of teaching by including more time for teacher training, says Education Minister Alan McIsaac. (CBC)

Elizabeth Costa, director of instructional development and achievement for the department, is convinced by research that suggests quality is more important than quantity when it comes to time in the classroom.

"(It's) the notion of teach less, learn more," said Costa.

"To really focus on what the skills are that we need for instruction and assessment and to know your curriculum really, really well. And that high quality time is more beneficial to student learning than quantity of time."

The P.E.I. Home and School Federation supports the idea of more PD days for teachers, but is also concerned about the number of hours students spend in the classroom. The most recent Statistics Canada figures, from 2010-11, show P.E.I. with the second-lowest number of hours of instructional time among all provinces for most grades, and the number of hours on P.E.I. has dropped since then.

'The longer day could introduce some flexibility.'- Education Governance Commission

The 874 hours per year on P.E.I. is the second lowest amount in the country, and 47 hours fewer per year than the national average.

The Education Governance Commission suggested in 2012 that P.E.I. consider lengthening its school day. That was primarily to make it easier to allow for more professional development time for teachers without subtracting from instructional time. But the commission also said there would be other benefits from an extended instructional day.

"The longer day could introduce some flexibility, facilitating innovations in subject scheduling," the report noted.

"These might include changes to the number of periods in a high school day, or a move from the current rigid and overcrowded intermediate school day schedule to a more integrated approach with larger blocks of time for literacy and numeracy."

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said the recommendation was considered, but rejected.

For mobile device users: View an interactive chart of hours of instructional times across Canada here

Corrections

  • This story previously stated a student from Alberta will have received about 1,000 hours more instructional time upon graduation from high school, than a student from P.E.I. In most cases the difference would be about 600 hours, although the number would be more than 1,000 for a limited number of Alberta students who attend full-day kindergarten.
    Mar 07, 2014 9:53 AM AT