Nfld. & Labrador

Education task force suggests overhaul of inclusive education, math and reading curricula

An education task force has released 82 recommendations around education in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Premier's task force report includes 82 recommendations around education in Newfoundland and Labrador

Now is the Time: The Premier's Task Force on Improving Educational Outcomes was released Tuesday and includes 82 recommendations around education in Newfoundland and Labrador. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

The Newfoundland and Labrador government could soon be making some changes to its education system, including drafting new policies around inclusive education, altering how it assesses math and language arts, and creating a new plan for dealing with issues around student mental health.

Premier Dwight Ball released his Task Force Report on Improving Educational Outcomes on Tuesday in Deer lake, an effort that was part of the government's The Way Forward plan. The premier said government's plan is to start implementing the recommendations in 2018.

Other recommendations in the report deal with issues around early learning, multicultural education, co-operative education, Indigenous education, and teacher education and professional development.

 Read all the recommendations here.

Inclusive education

With regards to inclusive education, the task force suggests government rescind the 1996 Special Education Policy and replace it with a new "Student Support Services" policy, which would bring in a model of student support that is "independent of a philosophy of inclusion."

Part of that would include bringing back the Individual Student Support Program (ISSP) model for students receiving services from multiple government departments.

Some of the other 16 recommendations around inclusive education are introducing a second level of student assistants called "instructional assistants," getting Memorial University to include two courses on exceptionalities in its faculty of education, and for the provincial education department to develop a child health services model around educational issues.

Premier Dwight Ball and Education Minister Dale Kirby present the findings of a task force on education in Newfoundland and Labrador in Deer Lake on Tuesday. (Gary Moore/CBC)

Student mental health and wellness

The task force's report also makes more than a dozen recommendations to better address the mental health of students.

Suggestions include launching a new provincial framework on mental health, creating a new secretariat position on the Executive School Council to help implement that framework, and developing a dropout plan to lessen the current rate of 1,260 students at the high school level.

Math and reading

The report also includes dozens of recommendations around the delivery and assessment of the math and literacy curricula in the province.

For both subject areas, it suggests abandoning provincial assessments for mathematics and language arts and replace them with national or international frameworks instead.

It also suggests eliminating the current numeracy support teacher and literacy/numeracy teacher positions. Instead, the report recommends bringing in specialists in each district that can provide leadership and support to individual schools.

Other suggestions are made around new ways to better prepare young teachers for math and science education, as well as detailed suggestions for specific grade levels.

Indigenous and multicultural education

The task force also dealt with education of Indigenous students and students from non-Canadian cultures, suggesting a framework be created by June 2019 specially around the issue.

It also suggests implementing more Indigenous and multicultural courses into the curriculum, and better training for teachers in preparation to teach Indigenous students.

Early childhood education

Pre-school age education was also addressed by the task force, with the group suggesting government amend current legislation to enable schools to offer programs to children under the kindergarten age.

It also focuses on how to better transition children from age three into their first years of public school by offering more grants, creating more programs to link schools to pre-school programs, and collaborating with and borrowing ideas from other areas of the country when it comes to early childhood education.

Career and co-operative learning

Better preparing students to work in the real world was also one of the areas the report focused on, with the recommendation that more partnerships be made within the public and private sector to get students real working experience.

It also says high school students should be better educated about program requirements at MUN and CNA, that Career Education 2201 be eliminated and a new career education course be offered in Grade 8 that focuses on informed selection of senior high courses.

Teacher education

When it comes to training future teachers, the task force states the province should look at reviewing current standards around teacher certification and hold an annual meeting with MUN's Faculty of Education to discuss how university programs align with the needs of actual schools.

Among the several other recommendations, it suggests undertaking a full review of the Teacher Training Act and to increase oversight to provide greater leadership and resources when it comes to the professional development of teachers.

With files from Colleen Connors and Gary Moore