Editorial – School news worries us

Jeff Burgar

These are busy times for teachers.

It isn’t just getting back in the classroom. It isn’t dusting off the old teaching notes or planning the next professional development day. There are two new governments in Canada that want to make a mark on how students are being taught. Everybody should pay attention.

Jason Kenney’s new Alberta government is reviewing subject content. A new panel is criticized for not having teachers, LBGQT and Indigenous members.

Meanwhile, Doug Ford’s Ontario government wants to test teachers. Ford isn’t happy with test scores Ontario students are getting in Math. Usually, low scores are blamed on poor students. Ford figures the problem is with teachers who don’t know Math themselves. His fix plan is simple – Do not allow new teachers to even get a teaching license if they can’t pass a government math test.

There is concern in Ontario, indeed in all of Canada, students are not getting the education taxpayers pay for. Plus of course, as is always said, Canada’s future lies with upcoming generations. If they can’t even read and write, what’s to become of our dear country?

According to the Education Quality office in Ontario, only 50 per cent of Grade 6 students met the standard for Mathematics for the second straight year. The number of Grade 3 students and Grade 9 applied Math students who met the standard both declined by one per cent compared to last year to an even lower score.

“This is, of course, concerning to all of those who work towards student achievement and student success,” says Laurie French, president of Ontario Public School Board Association.

But, a teacher passing a test proving he knows his subject is no guarantee he or she can pass their knowledge to students. It’s the same with a business person who keeps going broke. Can they really run a business and train their staff? How about a Red Seal mechanic who knows everything about transmissions, but can’t fix one that stays fixed. Should that same mechanic be allowed to teach an apprentice? There is much, much more to all this than meets the eye.

There is much concern in developed countries about the quality of education being delivered. Are we keeping up in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] teaching? How do we get more females into these same fields? How do we keep up with countries where STEM subjects are of prime importance?

Reasons we have to abound. This is a technological world and getting more so all the time. Every industry, from mining to food production to banking and even education is being impacted. If our students, and their teachers, can’t grasp even the broad strokes, what does that say of our future?

It’s good news when only six countries: Singapore, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and Russia, of 48 in an ongoing international study score better than Canada in Math and Science for Grade 8 students.

But for Grade 4 students, 26 countries scored higher. Canada is falling behind.

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