Lack of Indigenous inclusion, not enough supports highlighted in education reform meeting
'We have to be very careful about what we’re doing in our schools,' says Paula Dawe
Mental health support and Indigenous issues were among many topics brought up at a public consultation on education in Happy Valley-Goose Bay Tuesday evening.
"It's frightening. We have more children coming in that are high need than ever ever before," retired teacher Paula Dawe told the 25 or so educators, parents and teachers at the meeting.
Dawe retired in 2004 but continues to volunteer at Peacock Primary School.
"I think we have to be very careful about what we're doing in our schools now to meet the needs. We need more student assistance and I think in primary, every teacher should have a teacher assistant."
Dawe's comments were heard by the Premier's Task Force on Education Outcomes, which is crossing the province to hear from educators, parents and students about ways to improve educational outcomes.
The panel says they are including what they hear in a report, which the premier says will help inform an education plan rolling out in 2018.
Happy Valley-Goose Bay was the panel's second stop. A full schedule of meetings wraps up in March.
Social workers needed
"One of the places we're not in enough that we should be is the education system," social worker Raelene Vickers told the panel.
Vickers added social workers have the necessary skills to work with kids who have special needs, and are able to provide them with various supports, including mental health.
"Kids will talk about their day or what's going on at home or there's no food at home or things that are going on between their parents and a lot of those times those … teachers don't feel like they're equipped to answer those questions," Vickers said.
"Social workers have that ability to do so. We're connected with both families [and] with lots of different agencies."
Lack of Indigenous perspective
A lack of Indigenous perspective in the curriculum and the education plan for Labrador students, in particular, was another topic discussed at length during the session.
"We tried to teach based on their previous knowledge," said Cathy Mitsuk, who is currently studying for her bachelor's degree in education.
Mitsuk said once she is finished school, she plans to teach on Labrador's north coast.
"If they know that a Ski-Doo travels at five kilometres an hour and gets to the cabin at this certain amount of time they can understand that concept," Mitsuk said.
"When they go into a … test and they have [a question about a] child skateboarding on a sidewalk that's made of concrete and hits a curb what time does he get to his grandmother's house, that child's not going to know what concrete or a curb is."
Mitsuk said more can be done to make educational materials work for students with varied backgrounds, and that can be accomplished with collaboration between the provincial government and the various Indigenous groups.
Looking for input
The task force is reaching out to anybody who wants to make comments, either through public consultations over the next month, as well as by way of an online survey or by e-mail.
The next public consultation is happening in Stephenville on Feb. 13.