Gallant government reveals 10-year education plans
Education reports in June recommended no major change in direction or overhaul of system
The Gallant government says it will make the biggest investment in public education in the province's history through new 10-year plans unveiled on Thursday morning in Fredericton.
But no dollar amount or details about resources were provided.
Priorities include establishing a culture of belonging, improving literacy, and numeracy skills, ensuring proficiency in fundamental language skills, and fostering leadership, citizenship and entrepreneurial spirit, said Education Minister Brian Kenny.
The plans, entitled "Everyone at their best" for the anglophone sector, and "Donnons à nos enfants une longueur d'avance," for the francophone sector, do not lay out exactly how the changes will be achieved.
They are "high-level" plans, where the government sets goals, while giving local schools and school districts the tools to reach those goals according to their own challenges and opportunities, said Kenny.
They establish clear expectations on standards and performance to be achieved collaboratively, he said.
The goals include:
- Increasing the percentage of Grade 2 students achieving "appropriate" and higher levels of performance on provincial reading assessments to 90 per cent by the fall of 2025, up from the current 76.9 per cent, with the exception of some special needs children.
- Increasing the percentage of students scoring at higher performance levels in math on national (PCAP) and international (PISA) measures to 47 per cent and 59.5 per cent respectively, up from the current 32 per cent and 31.2 per cent.
- Increasing the percentage of students scoring at higher performance levels in science on national (PCAP) and international (PISA) measures to 47 per cent and 42.5 per cent respectively, up from the current 34.5 per cent and 30.4 per cent.
- Increasing the percentage of students in Grades 11 and 12 enrolled in skilled trades and technology education courses to 90 per cent, up from the current 75 per cent.
But the government will measure progress, he said. Baseline data and targets, where applicable, will be established by the fall of 2018, and accountability reports will be completed.
The plans require that educators appreciate the individual learning traits of each child in their care and embrace the principles of inclusion, he said.
They also call for mechanisms to help resolve disputes between parents and the system regarding supports for students with exceptional learning needs.
Other goals include teaching First Nations history to all students, rather than the current 15 per cent, and training all educators on First Nation history, tradition and cultures, rather than the current 7.8 per cent.
The government also wants to see more students enrolled in Mi'kmaq and Wolastoq language courses by 2025 — 60 per cent, compared to 18 per cent.
Progressive Conservative education critic Jody Carr said the opposition is "generally satisifed" with the vision revealed by the governing Liberals.
"The real caveat will be the implementation," said Carr.
"We need to be assured that like being involved with the pre-work, that the oppostion MLAs, as well as the parents, stakeholders and teachers will be involved with the implementation planning.
"The other thing I would say is we need to make sure the proper resources are put in place."
This year's provincial budget devotes $1.1 billion to the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, with $987 million of that amount earmarked for the seven school districts in the province.
Thursday's announcement provided no financial figures or commitments.
Carr said the people and groups involved in making the vision a reality need to begin work on doing so soon.
"We can't wait another two or three years for an implementation plan," he said. "That work needs to be starting right away."
Kenny has said the government will implement its plans in time for the start of the 2016-17 school year, which begins Tuesday for students.
However, opposition politicians have challenged that, since school staffing levels for the start of a school year are usually put in place the previous March.
Kenny said the primary focus areas for the first year will be literacy, numeracy, career and life readiness and early childhood development.
The plans follow up on the recommendations of a two-person education commission the government appointed to make recommendations for improvements.
The reports of Karen Power and Gino Leblanc were released in June and cautioned against another big change or overhaul in education.
Power's report on the anglophone school sector acknowledged that many of the ideas "align with recommendations" made in earlier reports dating back 25 years.
"This plan is different in that it is non-partisan, long-term, and focuses on our challenges and the outcomes needed to overcome them," said Premier Brian Gallant.
"We should be proud that for the first time, an education plan has been built on extensive public consultation," he said.
More than 3,400 New Brunswickers, including experts, teachers, early childhood partners, students, parents, community and business leaders, school district personnel, district education councils and First Nations communities participated through a series of open houses, workshops, meetings and online engagement.
With files from Rachel Cave