Education minister says age-based grade levels to be phased out
Green paper released on wide-ranging education reforms
New Brunswick's education minister is planning some major changes to the education system, including the elimination of grade levels, 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.
Dominic Cardy released a green paper on education reforms Thursday, titled "Succeeding at Home."
"We've got some pretty bold ideas in here," Cardy said at a news conference in Fredericton.
"We have to set our own path and we have to excel on a global stage."
Grouped by ability
Cardy said he wants New Brunswick students to be better trained in critical thinking and collaborative problem-solving.
The green paper presents some ideas for discussion, but it also lists a number of actions that will be taken.
The elimination of age-based grade levels will be phased in beginning next year.
Students who are at the age for kindergarten to Grade 2 will be grouped together in "flexible primary learning environments."
They'll "work together based on their ability," said Cardy.
The minister said he expects that larger, more open teaching environments with co-teaching will relieve stress on teachers and educational assistants, while increasing student resilience.
For schools that want it
"When we talk about meeting each student where they are, this is what that means."
It will start in schools that are interested in trying it, he said.
"We expect that we're going to have enthusiastic support for this."
The paper also calls for a review of the mandate and structure of the Education Department, school districts and district education councils to make sure they are supporting principals, teachers, students and parents.
Cardy said the items in his green paper reflect what he's been hearing from teachers.
That includes zero tolerance for physical abuse, limits on how much time they spend answering emails from parents and more authority for principals to deal with behaviour issues.
The minister also said the government will evaluate artificial intelligence tools for student assessment, "moving us towards a fully personalized education for each student that will reduce the workload for teachers."
Teachers processing plan
The New Brunswick Teachers' Association is not commenting yet.
Communications officer Blake Robichaud said teachers need time to process the document and the association has to consult its elected leadership.
The minister is asking for feedback from the public on how some things should be accomplished.
For example, he wants to build on the integrated service delivery model that sees mental health experts, educators and social workers delivering co-ordinated, personalized programs to students.
But he's also asking: "How can schools address the increased demand to manage the physical and mental health of students and adults in the school system?"
He wants students to be able to hold a conversation in both official languages by the time they graduate from high school, but he is still looking for ideas about how to get there.
"How can we create structures for students to work together as they learn our two official languages? How can technology reinforce face-to-face learning making it easier to create lasting ties of friendship and community across our province?"
Cardy said he also wants the education system to focus on trades education in order to take advantage of nearly 10,000 construction job openings expected by 2027.
"The department of education is the department of economic development," he said.
The paper says the "government will look at incentives for community and business leaders to support the public school system, while ensuring education remains fully publicly funded.
That could mean apprenticeships and using the private sector, especially for things like shop classes.
Cardy said he remains committed to 10-year education plans and the auditor general's recommendations.
Classroom summit planned
"We will not engage in reforms that are without foundation, reforms for political effect, reforms that are undertaken without hearing from people inside the system."
Anyone who wishes to submit comments can do so by emailing consultation.EECD-EDPE@gnb.ca
"If New Brunswickers have ideas on how to improve our education system, you have no excuse not to speak out now," said Cardy.
A summit focused on improving the classroom environment is planned for Oct. 16-18.