Education reform needs new script

EDITORIAL Telegraph-Journal

September 3, 2014

New Brunswick has languished at or near the back of the pack when it comes to educational outcomes for decades. Despite spending more money on a shrinking enrolment, our provincial educational policies and programs have been unable to reverse poor literacy and numeracy results.

So when political leaders vying for votes in the Sept. 22 provincial election outline how they will reverse this multi-generational trend, it is accompanied with a healthy dose of scepticism. Both the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives launched their educational platforms Tuesday, the first day of school for most New Brunswick children. After digesting the rhetoric and looking for specifics, we find both platforms lacking.

The Progressive Conservatives revealed plans for an “education planning process aimed at providing a road map” for better policies and results. Tory Leader David Alward proclaimed it “a new day for education planning in New Brunswick” and promised to bring educators, academics, educators, parents and the business community together.

Liberal Leader Brian Gallant announced a 10-year education plan to be developed with the same group of stakeholders that would address literacy, numeracy, teach computer coding and ensure opportunities in music, the arts and physical education aren’t lost. The Liberals are proposing an extra $10 million a year to focus on their plan.

Both leaders promised to remove political interference from education, an obvious reference to decades of tinkering with the French Immersion program.

What was missing from both platforms was any attempt at identifying the underlying problem, the gap that exists between world-class and where New Brunswick results sit, realistic targets and goals and a true road map on how to achieve them.

In other words, it sounds a lot like the same old same old.

Educational progress can only be achieved with using data to determine why our children are failing. Throwing more money at schools or promising a buffet of programs to appeal to every possible concern isn’t a plan; it’s a Hail Mary pass. We’ve seen this movie several times and it has the same ending. Someone has to draft a new script.

Our children deserve the best education we can possibly give them. True educational reform would include looking at how to rationalize our under-used school infrastructure, base funding on need and not a straight per capita formula, creating programs that have clear objectives and targets and holding everyone in the system accountable for achievement. Voters are still waiting for someone to show them that platform