Saskatchewan

Committee recommends 12 actions for modernizing Sask. education system

A committee organized by the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation (STF) has released a report on how to update the province’s education system.

Team consulted with more than 6,000 teachers, parents, students and community leaders

Confidence in Saskatchewan schools was rated at 56 per cent by respondents. (Matt Llewellyn/CBC)

A committee organized by the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation (STF) has released a report on how to update the province's education system.

The report, titled Education Re-Imagined, details 12 calls to action, following nearly a year of discussion and public consultation.

According to the STF, it's been 30 years since the last comprehensive review of public education in Saskatchewan.

One of the recommendations is for more support for children who learn in different ways. The committee is asking for more educational assistants, speech-language pathologists, ESL teachers, counsellors and elders. 

Another, is to "move beyond test scores, and measure success in other ways.

More than 6,000 students, parents, teachers and community members gave input.

Randy Schmaltz, reference committee chair and executive director of the STF, says people seemed to care about education, but didn't feel heard. He said confidence in Saskatchewan schools was rated at 56 per cent by respondents. 

"The system hasn't kept up to the pace of change," said Schmaltz. "The diversity, the needs of kids, the social pressures on students and certainly the pressures created by fiscal restraint [have] put pressure on schools where they're unable to meet the needs of kids as well as they used to."

Committee member Monica Kreuger, who represented the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce on the committee, said her husband struggled to graduate high school. Once they found out he learned in a different way, he earned three degrees. 

Now the couple runs a post-secondary school for entrepreneurs. 

"[Our students] thrive because our environment, because it's small, we can adapt to the individual person in this system," said Kreuger. "That's what I think we need to start to look for in a public education system."

Committee member Monica Kreuger, who represented the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce on the committee, says smaller class sizes would benefit students by allowing for more personalized learning. (CBC News)

NDP leader Ryan Meili suggested the province reduce classroom sizes to 24 students for Kindergarten to Grade 3.

Education Minister Gordon Wyant said he's more concerned about the needs of the kids in the class, than absolute numbers.

"I think the conversation, while we want to talk about class size, really needs to centre around the composition of classrooms and addressing the needs of children in the classrooms, many of whom have significant complex needs that we hadn't seen historically," he said. 

"So I think that's really the challenge." 

The committee wants the government to study the costs of updating the entire education system and to commit to a long-term funding mechanism. 

Wyant said the government wants to start implementing changes based on the committee's recommendations by as early as fall 2020. 

Twelve actions for education:

  1. Allocate resources so teachers can create effective learning environments.
  2. More human resources to support inclusive classrooms. (More educational assistants, ESL teachers, elders and counsellors). 
  3. Move beyond test scores.
  4. Restructure authority to ensure a local voice in schools.
  5. Allow for community space and programming in schools, like a hub for neighbourhood. 
  6. Establish a Provincial Council on Education with no political ties. 
  7. Update curriculum continually utilizing teachers' professional knowledge. 
  8. The Ministry of Education must provide a full range of resources, materials and professional development for teachers.
  9. Develop school division policies with staff, parents and students. 
  10. Conduct a comprehensive study to determine the real costs of a quality education system fit for the 21st century and commit to a long-term funding mechanism.
  11. Funding model must provide resources to support the varied needs of students, including behavioural issues, learning needs, cultural diversity and mental health. 
  12. The actions outlined in this report must be acted upon. Everyone is responsible for making sure decision makers are held accountable.

Read the full report below. Click here if you're on mobile. 

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