Saskatchewan

Sask. NDP says education survey finds overcrowded classrooms, lack of supports major concerns

Saskatchewan's Opposition party says money is needed to hire additional teachers and provide supports to accommodate a growing number of students in the province, after conducting its own education survey in response to one conducted by the Sask. Party government earlier this year.

NDP, Ministry of Education both released results of education surveys on Wednesday

Results of an education survey conducted by Saskatchewan's Ministry of Education released Wednesday suggest more comfortable learning environments and lessons delivered by competent teachers are top priorities for the province's students. (Marie-Isabelle Rochon/CBC)

Saskatchewan's Opposition party says money is needed to hire additional teachers and provide supports to accommodate a growing number of students in the province, after conducting its own education survey in response to one conducted by the Sask. Party government earlier this year.

Regina Lakeview MLA and NDP education critic Carla Beck said she would like to see more money allocated to the education system in the upcoming provincial budget.

"We expect to see [in the next budget], at least, a factor for growth. It's just something we haven't seen for years in this province," Beck said. "We've seen thousands upon thousands of additional students and stagnant funding." 

The NDP released the results of its education survey Wednesday, while addressing a Saskatoon Teachers' Association convention. The online survey, open to the public, was launched by the NDP in June.

An earlier online survey by the province's Ministry of Education ran from April 8 until May 10 of this year. In total, nearly 9,000 people responded to that online survey, the province said Wednesday, including 1,047 students.

The provincial government has said it will use results from its survey as the basis for a redeveloped educational framework in 2020.

NDP education critic Carla Beck says the number of students in each classroom is growing, but education funding from the Saskatchewan government has stagnated. (Matt Howard/CBC)

According to a Wednesday news release, the government's survey found students identified being in comfortable learning environments and receiving lessons from competent teachers as top priorities. In-class distractions like student behaviour were also identified as a barrier to learning.

More elective classes and practical hands-on learning were also things the students indicated were important to them.

Classroom problems 'becoming the norm': NDP

NDP Leader Ryan Meili also flagged larger classroom sizes as a concern for the Opposition party and those who answered the NDP survey. Meili said the party had been hearing stories of overcrowding in classes, and a lack of educational assistants and other supports for students with disabilities.

"That's not atypical. That's becoming the norm," Meili said. 

More than 1,400 people responded to the survey, the NDP said, which was more broad in its scope, asking questions on issues like mandatory sexual education and lunch programs.

The Opposition says its survey found subsidies should be created for teachers who spend their own money on classroom supplies.

According to the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation, 96 per cent of respondents to a membership survey it conducted said they spend their own money for classroom resources.

"However, we also don't want this trend of parent, family and teacher subsidies of the classroom to continue when the province should be providing the necessary funding," said STF president Patrick Maze in a news release.

Education Minister Gordon Wyant accused Ryan Meili and the NDP of pointing out problems without offering up solutions. (Matt Howard/CBC)

Education Minister Gordon Wyant said the province's redevelopment of the education framework is about getting teachers back to teaching, rather than worrying about "administrative burden," for example.

"As we go around and listen to what the challenges are in the classrooms, we hear some of the same things [as the NDP] and I make no secret of that," Wyant said.

Wyant accused Meili and the NDP of pointing out problems without offering up solutions.

Wyant said while he doesn't have any numbers available, he is aware of teachers leaving the profession for work in other fields.

"We need to make sure that teachers can teach, so issues around class composition are important issues," Wyant said.

The government has said the average Saskatchewan classroom has 19 students. The NDP and Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation dispute that number, saying the real figure is higher.

Wyant said his government will continue to consult with students, staff and parents about the education system going forward.

With files from CBC's Scott Larson and Radio-Canada

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