EDUCATION MATTERS BY RON MARKS
Recently the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development announced a committee to do a complete review of education in Nova Scotia. The Nova Scotia School Board Association over the years has been advocating for mathematics review and a review of the Junior High School (Middle School) program. It is a welcome step to see Minister Karen Casey initiate this review and ask for a report by the end of September.
There are hundreds of things that should be looked at. For instance, should the school year be longer or shorter than 195 days for teachers (approximately 190 days for students)? Should the education system allow for two months off in the summer or should students have a month off in February and a month off in July? This might help retention of math and foreign languages since the breaks would only be four weeks at a time. However, a change in school dates would also affect our economy and vacation resorts in a multitude of ways and some ways that may not be good.
Should we have all children learn two languages starting in Grade Primary? The choices may include French, Korean, Mandarin, Spanish, German and so on. Learning a second language when you are very young seems to be relatively easy and has long-term benefits to the student.
Should music and dance resources be increased to provide greater access to these types of programs? We do know that these programs are beneficial to students.
One of the highest priorities school boards have right now is greater support for mental health workers in all our schools, especially in the elementary schools. If you can deal with the problem while a student is young, there is evidence to support the cost to society long term will be much less.
Should busing be reduced and walking increased? Should children be kept behind if they don’t meet the minimum expected graduation requirement? …and on and on we go. There are so many questions and not much time for answers if we are to do a good job at review.
The answers that I see are dependent on the money available and the priorities that Nova Scotians have. The next six months should certainly be interesting as we move forward with this review of education in Nova Scotia.
An education advocate, Ron Marks has been an outspoken member of local and regional school boards and a former Stellarton mayor. His column runs weekly.