Education remains a contentious issue for voters, so we had our undecided panel discuss it in relation to their voting decision. What follows is an edited transcript of the conversation.
The big issue is that a large gap has been created between funding and costs, and the responsibility for delivering education doesn’t really sit with the government, but rather the school boards. They are in a tough spot! Their revenue is fixed, and hasn’t increased at the rate that their costs have. One of the interesting things that the ministry of education is working on right now is re-writing curriculum to have more depth and less breadth, and allow students to focus on competencies/skills/knowledge that they will (we think!) need in the 21st century. Honestly, I don’t know how much we can attribute this to the B.C. Liberals … but it is an exciting move nonetheless. I think it is interesting how we are opposed to two-tier health care but we allow and embrace it in our education system. Don Rinald, Nanaimo (a high-school teacher)
I like Don’s point, above, about two-tier health care being completely unacceptable, but two-tier education is the norm. My daughter is in Grade 2 in the public system, and my brother is a teacher in the private system, and the differences are remarkable. My daughter goes to a great school. … The quality of her education is excellent, and she’s a self-motivated and intelligent kid. If she had a so-so teacher, public school would be a very tough road. Additionally, her school is falling down. It’s one of the oldest schools in the district and it hasn’t been updated at all because it’s a wood-frame building and is not considered to be an earthquake risk. ... It’s disgraceful, really. Do I think anything will change under a different government? Not really. Education persists, because everyone recognizes it’s the duty of the governing party to provide it. Jill Bryant, Victoria
Speaking as a business person, education is a critical component in building a strong economy. Companies aren’t going to relocate (or grow) in an area with a weak work force, and they aren’t going to be able to draw talent from other places to move here if prospects feel the schools are weak. … Basically, it boils down to Clark giving some kids $1,200 once to use towards university, and Dix taking that money and trying to help out with childcare (projected savings supposedly $2,000 a year). I’ll take the latter, thank you. What would tuition cost under a Liberal government 15 years from now? Yeah, $1,200 is a drop in the bucket. Lisa Fisher, Vancouver
Another problem I have is the curriculum. It seems to be suited to make the average students do well without much flexibility for other students. Thanks to alternative schooling, I am finishing high school through a school called the Link. Now I can learn at home and online as long as I get work done. It’s an amazing way of learning that works perfectly for me and I think with more programs like it, students would graduate with better grades more often. Nathan Lawko, Victoria
I don’t believe that a ton of money has to be thrown at the system, but perhaps instead a focus on more relevant learning practices and curriculum. There are problems in the education system, but I am happy to see that there are also many engaged, dedicated professionals who are willing to adapt. Education continues to be a political tool that governments can use to either show how tough they can be or how benevolent they are. Scott Guthrie, Victoria
I do agree with having frequent public examinations at school. Academic performance in universities affects a student’s chances of getting into internships and certain majors. Public examination also allows us to identify schools that are having issues with teaching, especially for a subject like math. I think many students would benefit from learning a trade skill early. These students don’t intend to go to universities or colleges. We should greatly expand our trade-skills program with an internship component in high school. – Stephen Fung, Vancouver