Two opinion pieces in a recent issue of the Chronicle-Herald, one an editorial and the other by Paul Bennett, spoke of the difficult learning conditions in some of Nova Scotia’s most impoverished neighbourhoods. Both are to be commended for highlighting the clear connections between poverty and school success (Be bold first in education, Radical intervention for faltering schools; both April 19).
The provincial budget was tabled in Nova Scotia earlier this month, with education funding being increased by $18.6 million.
I don’t have time to crunch the numbers here to analyze what they really mean. (e.g. to what extent do they compensate for cuts to the P-12 education budget in recent years? And what year would we use as a benchmark, anyway? 2010? 2001?)
For the moment, teachers seem pleased by the budget announcement (despite the fact that Liberal government had promised $65 million in additional funding for education in the first year of its mandate, not over four years as the budget announcement now says).
The authors of a couple of reports by right-wing think-tanks have been doing their best to discredit teachers in Nova Scotia this past month.
I’d rather not mention the names of the think-tanks or their authors, so they don’t get any more attention than they already have. If you’re familiar with the political landscape in this province though, you probably know who they are. (If not, one of them is the first hit when you Google “Nova Scotia think tank.”)
Rick Howe invited me on his show on News 95.7 in Halifax today to discuss the education review panel that was recently announced for Nova Scotia.
We talked about the broader context in which the review is taking place – the “education reform”/privatization movement – and how we need to be wary of simplistic ways of thinking about education. Lots of ink has been spilled about the so-called math wars, some going so far as to talk about a “math crisis” in Canada. The government has talked about aligning the curriculum with the “needs of the economy,” and business and finance are well represented on the panel itself.
But math scores on standardized tests are not the most important thing in our schools. A narrow focus on basic math and literacy skills means our kids miss out on learning about empathy, political engagement and the arts, among other things.
Educational “success” for all depends on us addressing overarching issues like poverty and inequality.