Feature

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

Vivian McCaffrey

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 operated until 2011 when the government disbanded it for, in its view,

being too closely allied with BCTF and not effectively carrying out its responsibilities. The College had also come into conflict with the province’s universities over teacher training. The College was replaced by the BC Teachers’ Council whose governing body is more directly connected to the government; the majority of voting members are not practising teachers.

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Teacher, union leader, political/social activist, wife and mother, Wells is a person who wears a variety of hats, often simultaneously.