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Re-engineering BC education amid bargaining strifeMay 1, 2014

Author: Webmaster

There are mixed views about the province’s announcement this week that it intends to “re-engineer” apprenticeship programs and education, from kindergarten through post-secondary.

Some are withholding judgment until they see details about what is planned and how it will be executed. (Most parents, however, are probably more concerned these days about rising tensions between the provincial government and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation.*)

From Tuesday’s news release, we know that government intends to shift some post-secondary funding toward programs that produce in-demand workers. But what will re-engineering mean for K-12 schools?

The government release mentions the following changes:

1.       Doubling of ACE-IT spaces to 5,000 over two years so that more students can pursue skills and trades training.

2.       More dual credits to help students move faster into post-secondary studies or jobs.

3.       Reforming Grade 10-12 graduation requirements to allow personalized graduation plans so that students have more options and the skills they need to find the right fit after high school. (This has been in the works for many months.)

4.       Applied skills curriculum for K-9 to prepare students for the full range of career options that they can pursue after school, with more emphasis on skilled trades. (No details provided.)

5.       More teachers qualified to teach skills foundation courses in high school through innovative encouragement for teachers to upgrade their skills.

6.       A faster and easier route for qualified trades people to earn teaching certificates.

“Our goal, ultimately, is to give every student . . . a better, early head start on their future education,” Education Minister Peter Fassbender is quoted as saying in the Vancouver Sun. “We want students to find their fit earlier.”

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) expressed support for improved trades and technical education but said such plans must be backed by sufficient funding and collaborative planning.

President Jim Iker said he’s concerned that the government’s enthusiasm for LNG exploitation may limit educational opportunities. “We have a responsibility to offer young people a broad and deep educational experience that not only prepares them for the world of work but also for active citizenship in our democracy,” he said in a release.

*On Wednesday, the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) announced retaliation against the BCTF for its Stage 1 job action, saying the union should also feel pressure to sign a new contract. BCPSEA, which is the bargaining arm for school trustees but is now controlled by government, said it will start billing the union in June for the employers’ costs for teacher health and welfare benefits, totalling about $5 million a month. (The money would be returned if the union signs a new contract before the end of June and does not engage in a full strike “or otherwise cause a serious and immediate disruption of educational services.)

It’s also planning to cancel the June 27 administration day and dock teachers one day’s pay. The BCTF called the moves “unnecessary provocation” and said it would challenge them.

Meanwhile, the Delta Teachers’ Association has advised members to cancel field trips and not plan any more during this school year, given the possibility of further job action.

“We know that due to the recalcitrance and lack of progress at our provincial bargaining table, there exists at least the possibility of the need for an escalation before the end of the school year,” DTA president Paul Steer told the Globe and Mail.

“With that in mind . . . it’s probably wise not to commit a lot of time, energy and human resources to big field trips, social events of various kinds that might lead to disappointment if they had to be cancelled.”

Has that happened in other districts as well?

I am a guest blogger for BCCPAC and information presented here does not represent the views of the organization.

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