New Brunswick·Video

Gradeless schools would ease tension over classroom composition, minister says

Education Minister Dominic Cardy is asking the public for suggestions on how to improve New Brunswick's education system.

Cardy answers questions about green paper proposals for improving education system

Dominic Cardy presented a green paper on education reforms earlier this month in Fredericton. (Joe McDonald/CBC)

Education Minister Dominic Cardy is asking the public for suggestions on how to improve New Brunswick's education system.

The minister took questions and addressed concerns live from the Information Morning Fredericton studio Monday morning. The call for public comments came after the release of a green paper on education reforms earlier this month. 

"Education really touches on everyone in the province," Cardy said.

The green paper titled "Succeeding at Home," was created as a way to propose ideas and "trigger discussion." 

Questions dealt with a range of issues, including keeping inclusion as a part of the system, improving French programs, and providing more training for educational assistants experiencing violence in the classroom. 

Eliminating grade levels

But several times during the question-and-answer session, the possibility of eliminating grade levels arose.

Cardy said such a change, proposed in the green paper, would reduce tension around the composition of classrooms, which now can include students of varying academic abilities.

Education Minister Dominic Cardy answers questions about green paper proposals for improving the education system. 5:19

He said that inside schools that aren't organized by grades, students would learn differently and would be able to work on basic social skills and at their own level, which might include university-level work.

"Let's make sure to meet the children where they are, at their point of readiness," he said. "So there's no discrimination or stigma at being at different points." 

Although some students require an educational assistant, Cardy said eliminating grade levels would also reduce the number of educational assistants required for each classroom.

"Suddenly the kids who are experiencing developmental delays, they're being met where they're at, and they're engaged. … Similarly, the kids who are excelling, they should be free to be able to race ahead as far as they possibly can." 

He said the goal would be to allow teachers to have more time to focus on the areas of greater need and help students move ahead instead of worrying about an "obsessively routinized curriculum document." 

Restructuring department

During the live broadcast, Cardy also said there needs to be a broader conversation about how his department fits in with other departments across the province.

He said his department has to work alongside other departments when it comes to topics like vaccinations and children living in poverty. 

"Departments will defend their turf and have rules that allow them to work internally but not allow them to co-operate," he said.  

There was no reference in the green paper to dismantling the seven district education councils, but Cardy suggested Monday that he wants to look at different models, including a more community-based alternative to the councils. 

Although he isn't committed to one model in particular, Cardy said his bias is toward "local control," where communities can have more control over what's happening in their schools. 

The current district education councils are made up of elected officials who are voted in during municipal elections.

The councils are in charge of allocating the budget, commissioning studies and making recommendations to the province. 

The green paper also suggests more use of artificial intelligence in the classroom, more partnerships with the private sector to boost education in the trades, and the introduction of second-language programming in daycares.

The minister has said he wants New Brunswick students to be better trained in critical thinking and collaborative problem-solving.

About the Author

Elizabeth Fraser

Reporter/Editor

Elizabeth Fraser is a reporter/editor with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. She's originally from Manitoba. Story tip? elizabeth.fraser@cbc.ca

With files from Information Morning Fredericton

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