Saskatchewan

Sask. education survey an improvement over past ones, says researcher

A University of Saskatchewan researcher says the province's most recent public consultation survey is an improvement over past surveys.

Government giving public one month to weigh-in on education

A new survey by the government of Saskatchewan is asking for public input to help make a plan for education in the province over the next decade. (Pixabay)

A University of Saskatchewan researcher says the province's most recent public consultation survey is an improvement over past surveys.

The government has been in a habit recently of surveying the public on major issues, the latest in this trend is an online survey which asks about the future of education in the province.

The three-page survey which launched on Monday will close on May 10. It is separated in two sections, for students and non-students.

Jason Disano, director of social sciences research laboratories at the University of Saskatchewan, says the survey is an "improvement" over past ones.

"The data that's collected is not necessarily intended to represent the views and opinions of all residents but rather just those that are completing the survey, which is definitely improvement over what we've seen in the past."

Disano said the open-ended style of responses the government seeks is harder for people to complete but could also prompt more thoughtful responses.

Education Minister Gordon Wyant says the survey on education will be one of many factors which will shape the future education policy (Matt Howard/CBC)

As for critique, Disano said there is no guarantee Saskatchewan people will be the ones solely taking part in the questionnaire.

"If there is one particular negative about this survey, is that it is still publicly available online meaning that anyone anywhere can access the survey."

"Individuals could go into the survey multiple times for other jurisdictions to provide their comments and thoughts which may or may not be relevant to this whole consultative process."

He said it is for those reasons that he would conduct this type of consultation differently.

"There are other ways of administering a survey to the provincial population of parents or to students in a way that you can actually say the data that we've gathered, the results we've garnered, actually truly represent the views and opinions of parents, students, teachers or administrators." 

Disano called a previous survey on trespassing laws "flawed".

Surveys says...

What do cannabis, trespassing, and libraries have in common? They are all recent examples of Saskatchewan government online surveys which help to form government policy.

The government of Saskatchewan lists its past public consultations on its website, more than 50 to date. Others surveys include, individualized funding for autism, Crown resource land and wild rice and wildfire response.

While some consultation may fly under the radar, the government has received attention for a few recent surveys.

The government conducted a survey about trespassing laws from August to October and received 1,600 responses. The majority of those who took part in the trespassing survey (65 per cent) wanted advanced consent for visitors before entering a property. The province made that the new law.

In 2017, the province asked the public about legalized cannabis. There were a number of questions, including who should sell the the product.  In that case, 45 per cent of respondents wanted a government-run retailer to sell marijuana.

At the time, Justice Minister Don Morgan noted that the survey said more respondents supported private retailers when pharmacies and national retailers were included, edging out the number of people who supported a government-run retailer.

In the end, the province went with a private only model. It did agree with respondents on legal age to consume cannabis of 19, with 45 per cent people in favour of that age limit.

As recently as this January, a survey was launched to ask the public about libraries.

NDP wants to know weight of survey

NDP education critic Carla Beck said she has questions about how the survey will be used to inform the government's eventual education plan.

"We'll be asking questions about how this will be weighted and what will be done with this information." 

Beck said she is concerned the small ministry staff will be taxed in going through potentially thousands of responses. In addition, the open survey allows anyone, anywhere to submit an answer about Saskatchewan education.

Carla Beck is the NDP education critic, she says she wants to know the scope and weight of the education survey. (Matt Howard/CBC)

"Something is as complex and important as best practice in an educational policy shouldn't be left solely to lay people that's for sure," Beck said.

Minister of Education Gord Wyant said the survey would be one of the resources it uses to shape the educational policy over the next five to 10 years.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for more than 14 years. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

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