Survey asks Sask. what changes are needed in school system

The provincial government is asking for the public's help as it builds plans for the future of Saskatchewan's education system.

Talks with school divisions, teachers started last year

Saskatchewan's Ministry of Education is asking the public for its advice on what the education system should look like moving into the future. (Brenna Owen/CBC)

An online survey about what works and doesn't work in Saskatchewan schools will help inform the future of  the province's education system. 

The Ministry of Education is building a framework right now that will form a plan for education in the province beyond 2020.

The current strategic plan expires next year.

"We want to hear from students, parents, educators and school staff to better understand what they want for the future of education," Education Minister Gordon Wyant said in a news release.

"The new provincial education plan will ensure that our schools are on the right path to meet the needs of students as we look toward the next decade."

The survey is split into two categories, for students and non-students, and takes about 10 minutes to complete.

An online survey will also be available until May 10. You can find the link here.

Here are four of the survey questions:

  • What students need to be prepared for their future life and learning;
  • What gets in the way of students' learning and well-being;
  • What is working well  in Saskatchewan's schools; and
  • What needs to change in Saskatchewan's schools.

The province held a similar online survey during long-term planning sessions on the future of health care.

School boards supportive of survey, teachers union skeptical

The process in developing a new education plan started last year, when the ministry began talking to school divisions, the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation and other groups.

School divisions will be holding public meetings to allow parents and students to weigh in.

The STF is not part of the government survey, it conducted its own survey as part of its Re-Imagine Education initiative.

Wyant said he was disappointed the teachers' union was not involved but said its survey results will be factored into the government's plan.

"The voice of teachers is very important in this process," Wyant said.

Education Minister Gordon Wyant says the education survey will be of many things which will help form the province's education plan for the next decade. (Matt Howard/CBC)

The STF survey had 6,000 participants. It held 200 school meetings and 69 community forums. Its final report will be out this fall.

"We see this survey as somewhat unnecessary," said STF president Patrick Maze.

"The ministry seems most concerned at looking at education from a financial perspective and that to us is not in the best interest of students," Maze said.

Maze said the province has not spent enough money to keep up with the demands facing classrooms in the province, including, larger and more complex classrooms and supports for English as a second language.

The province cut the education budget by $54 million in 2017. It has made that whole with funding over the last two years but Maze said that has not kept up with demand.

"The problem is, in the meantime, we've seen more than 7,000 new students in Saskatchewan. Classrooms are full, teachers are looking for support and government isn't providing them."

STF President Patrick Maze says the ministry's survey is "somewhat unnecessary". The STF conducted its own survey over the last few months, (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

Maze said he will encourage his members to take part in the survey.

In August, Premier Scott Moe announced the province would fully pay the cost of a new contract for Saskatchewan teachers after leaving the contract out of last year's budget while it was in arbitration. One month later, teachers received a one per cent raise over two years.

On the other hand the Saskatchewan School Boards Association took part in the creation of the survey.

"It's an exciting project and we're glad to be key partners with the ministry in moving this forward," said SSBA president Shawn Davidson.

The survey was born out of a education summit last October.

"[The survey] will be a very important part of developing the strategic plan for the education sector in the province. It is a really big deal,"

"The more robust this consultation can be the better plan, we can all work on together in moving the education sector forward."

Money, money, money

NDP education critic Carla Beck said she was encouraged the government was seeking public input but she had some concerns with how the input would be used and the timeline and scope of the survey.

Beck and Wyant have been debating the province's level of funding for Saskatchewan classrooms for months. 

Wyant has said in this budget the government is spending a record amount on K-12 education. 

The 2019-20 budget increased the education budget by $26 million compared to last year, including money for six new K-12 schools to be built in Regina, Saskatoon and Moose Jaw.

"We know that money is important when it comes to public education but results are important as well. We want to make sure that we're getting the best possible results," Wyant said.

"Money alone may not be enough. But our schools do need enough money," Beck said.

with files from CBC's Adam Hunter


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