British Columbia

B.C. Education: Three principals provide an insider's guide

No, principals can't just fire your child's teacher — and other explanations of B.C.'s education system.

Surrey, Burnaby principals write the Insider's Guide to K-12 Education in BC

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario threatened to ramp up job action after contract talks broke down earlier this week. (CBC)

"I don't want this teacher, I want this one" — that's something that Burnaby school district principal David Mushens has heard many times from parents of students.

And he isn't alone. Whenever he met up for a glass of wine with two fellow school principals and the conversation turned to work, they realized that they were repeatedly getting the same types of questions and demands from parents.

Burnaby school principal David Mushens says picking a good school is as much about your child as it is about the school. (Charlie Cho/CBC)

So the three decided to write a book.

"It occurred to us that perhaps a lot of the times when there are issues and things that are going on in a school, we haven't done a good enough job giving information," Mushens told The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn.

Mushens, along with Faizel Rawji and David Starr of the Surrey and Burnaby school districts respectively, have penned the Insider's Guide to K–12 Education in BC.

'Can't you just fire them?'

Mushens said he's found that parents and caregivers often don't realize that schools have certain parameters in which they operate — for example, teachers can't just be swapped out of classes or simply fired.

"A lot of times people look at what they see on American television, [they think] they're going to walk in here and we're going to say, 'Yes, you're right, I'm going to fire people!'" Mushens said.

"It's understandable, I'm an advocate for my child too. But people come in sometimes not recognizing the vast complex of systems that are in place in any type of government bureaucracy.

"They forget that really, education is a very collaborative process, it's about working with people."

The book addresses how the school system in B.C. works, provides information on assessments and evaluations (including the controversial Fraser Institute school rankings), and there is also a section for frequently asked questions.

How to pick a school?

Mushens said that, as a principal, he is often asked how one can determine the quality of different schools.

"It's not so much what's a good school, but what's a good school for your child," he said.

He said the book explains that there are a wide variety of programs available that might suit a student's' needs — and said that while many will go to a school in their neighbourhood, private schools may be what others are looking for.

"Independent schools have lots of good things to offer — for some kids. You want to make the choice for the right there something particular to this program that's going to benefit my child?"

To hear the full interview click on the audio labelled: Three principals write the Insider's Guide to Education in BC


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