Cross-Country Check-Up: An Overview of Changes and Challenges in Education

Vivian McCaffrey

Over the last decade or so, Ontario has introduced important education initiatives such as primary class size caps and full day Kindergarten. The Liberal government has increased education funding since taking office in 2003, but the additional funding has only gone part way in addressing the $2 billion in cuts imposed by the former Progressive Conservative government. Not all cuts implemented by the previous government have been restored. Programs such as special education, English as a second language, design and technology, physical education, and the arts continue to be shortchanged at the elementary level. ETFO’s Building Better Schools initiative presents a plan for moving forward on these issues, but the additional investment conflicts with the provincial government’s austerity agenda. The 2016 Ontario budget projects that annual increases to education spending will average only 1.2 percent between 2014–15 and 2018–19.

Across Canada, few provincial governments are introducing positive new initiatives; some have introduced cuts to education. British Columbia has increased class sizes and reduced the number of specialist teachers. Alberta has pulled back from introducing full-day Kindergarten and class sizes are increasing. This has happened despite funding for an additional 740 teachers, as the province fails to keep up with growing student enrolment, a rare phenomenon in Canada. Looking eastward, New Brunswick has eliminated 600 of about 8,000 full-time teachers since 2011. The cuts are a result of declining enrolment but coincide with the province’s first inclusion policy for students with special needs adopted in 2013. In the words of a New Brunswick Teachers’ Association staff member, “We have fewer students but greater needs.” In the face of the economic downturn, Newfoundland is making difficult choices. Its 2016 budget announced a series of tax hikes as well as program cuts. Class size in grades four to 12 will be increased and multi-graded classrooms expanded, resulting in 203.75 fewer teaching positions. The province is moving ahead, however, with its commitment to introduce full-day Kindergarten in the fall, which will partially offset the staff cuts. Nova Scotia, in welcome contrast, delivered a budget this spring that allocates an additional $6.4 million to reduce class sizes up to Grade six.

Regulatory Bodies for Education Professions: A Growing Trend?

The majority of teacher unions have their own internal process for responding to complaints brought against members and for determining the appropriate discipline for those found guilty of non-professional behaviour. However there may be a slow but growing trend towards arms-length, selfregulatory bodies like the Ontario College of Teachers and the more recent College of Early Childhood Educators.

The British Columbia College of Teachers, founded in 1987, was the first Canadian teacher regulatory body and informed the legislation drafted for the Ontario body. The BC College


graphic of the feature title

What do today's teenagers think about gender equity and job equity?

teacher and students sitting on stairs displaying indigenous history projects

Tanya Leary considers the “danger of a single story” and the importance of ensuring that students learn Indigenous stories through Indigenous voices.