Sweeping changes to education system

The first the public knew of the Pallister government’s plans for educational change came with a set of meetings, Manitoba’s K-Gr.12 Review, held a year and a half ago, in May of 2019.

This week, on Tuesday, March 16, Education Minister Cliff Cullen announced a strategy to revamp the education model in Manitoba. Bill 64 would introduce sweeping changes, taking the 37 locally elected school boards out of the driver’s seat and replacing decision-making with a single Provincial Authority and a board of advisors.

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Manitoba’s 37 school divisions will be compressed into 15 regions. For Fort La Bosse this means joining Southwest Horizon and Turtle Mountain school divisions as a single region.

The plan would come into play as Bill 64, “putting students first”, replacing the Manitoba School Act and two other pieces of legislation.

According to the press release, the Better Education Starts Today (BEST) strategy is to shift resources to the classroom while giving parents and guardians much more input.

“The strategy introduces much-needed change to create a unified provincial education system that is accountable for results, classroom focused, student centred and parent friendly, leading to the most improved education system in Canada,” said Cullen.

The government says Manitoba is one of the highest spending provinces on education, per capita, with the highest number of school divisions and elected trustees across all provinces.

They say that assessment through provincial exams show Manitoba scores among the country's lowest student achievement results.

The government’s plan streamlines administration into one Provincial Education Authority (authority) while maintaining the French school division, Division Scolaire Franco-Manitobaine (DSFM).

In 2019 the Manitoba government gave parents and all stakeholders an opportunity to examine and discuss the education system, it’s glories and glitches. They implemented a kindergarten to Grade 12 review. Roundtable meetings were held in several centres throughout Manitoba, including one in Brandon which was well attended by parents (families), educators, school board members, and administrators.

The province says their strategy was informed by the Manitoba’s Commission on Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education report, Our Children’s Success: Manitoba’s Future, received in March 2020.

The 75 recommendations of the commission represent the most extensive reformation of Manitoba’s K – Gr. 12 education system in decades and presents a clear plan of action for becoming the most improved education system in Canada. The BEST strategy also drew on lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic from across Manitoba’s education system.

Minister Cullen said, “We have committed to building 20 new schools and followed that up with our $1.6 billion education funding guarantee. However, we want to ensure we have a system focused on students, teachers and, ultimately, results.”

Within the next five years, Manitoba’s government is committed to:

• shifting resources to the classroom

• ensuring that teachers, school staff and leaders have the capacity, knowledge and tools they need to support student performance;

• unifying the education system with a focus on accountability for results, outcomes and addressing the vast disparities in the system;

• giving parents and caregivers more opportunity to participate in the design and oversight of the system; and

• ensuring that all students are ready for life-long success regardless of where in the province they live.

He said, “By unifying our system and focusing educators on what matters most – student outcomes – the government expects up to $40 million will be shifted to the classrooms to support educational results.”

Manitoba Education will be undertaking public consultations on topics such as curriculum development, teacher training and learning, and ways to support vulnerable students. This includes further conversation with education partners, parents, and the wider Manitoba community. A survey will be available on http://engagemb.ca.

For more information, visit www.bettereducationmb.ca.

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