Challenges ahead in education ministry
There are a lot of challenges for B.C.’s Ministry of Education on the horizon, from educating the youth of the province to fill the growing need for skill related jobs to improving high school completion rates for aboriginal youth.
During a telephone conference call with northern media, Education Minister George Abbott said some of the positive steps this year is full-day Kindergarten for all students in the province.
“This is a big step forward from our perspective,” he said and added the enterprise cost about half a billion dollars. “It will have a positive impact in terms of future education results.”
The province is also making a move towards personalized learning which includes many elements, from the early identification of either physical or cognitive learning challenges to opening up different paths for students which align more readily with interests leading to employment opportunities.
Abbott said currently B.C. graduates about 80 per cent of its students, and with the aid of personalized learning, that number should increase.
In contrast, just over 50 per cent of aboriginal students are expected to graduate from B.C.’s schools.
“B.C. has the best rate in the nation, but we are still well below what we should be achieving.”
He said there has been just over an eight per cent improvement in completion rates for aboriginal students in the past decade, but progress has been too slow.
“But we need to keep building on that,” he said, adding the province allots school districts supplemental funding to aid in this goal.
School districts, he said, use the supplemental funding to make sure all students, including aboriginal students, learn fundamental learning skills from kindergarten through Grade 4 so they can achieve success in higher grades.
Preparing students for employment in skills related jobs is also important for the province.
Abbott said in spite of the economic recession, there has been growth in areas like mining, construction and forestry. Equipping the youth of the province to fill what has been projected to be in the neighbourhood of about a million job openings in this sector is important.
“First and foremost we want every young British Columbian to have the opportunity to participate in the work force.”
Accomplishing this means continuing to work with post-secondary and private sector partners.
Another positive statement shared by Abbott was there will be few if any school closures in the next year. There will be some school replacements and remediating in the upcoming months as well, although the economic climate has presented challenges.
On the negative side, Abbott said the province is right in the midst of contract negotiations with the teacher’s union.
“They still seem very far apart in terms of demands and expectations.”
The impact is that while students are going back to school as planned and teachers will be at work, they have withdrawn from doing the administration portion of their jobs.