A note from your teachers
A report from the BCTF to the members
of the legislative assembly
March 20, 2007
BCeSIS (British Columbia enterprise Student Information System)
High costLow performance
"BCeSIS is definitely a top-down system designed
for the ministry to collect data rather than a system developed to
meet the needs of students, staff, and school boards."
"A manual attendance routine, performed five times a day with
paper, pencil, and a human brain takes me about four minutes for the
whole day. A smooth day with BCeSIS requires sixteen minutes of time
to perform same attendance routine for my five classes."
"The program is slow, badly designed for classroom use,
unreliable, and does not seem to be improving even though we are now
two months into using it."
These are quotes from teachers currently using BCeSIS.
Unfortunately, they are experiences shared widely among BC teachers.
BCeSIS, a centralized data system initiated by the Ministry of
Education to collect and process data on all students, is sadly
flagging. In its short life, BCeSIS has gained a reputation as
sluggish and expensive.
Teaching is a complex human enterprise. Students are at its centre
and classrooms are places of learning, magical moments, and hard
work. Contrast this with the market-driven learning environment
BCeSIS envisions for students: a teacher behind a computer screen
recording student attendance, marks, and personal information.
Teachers want to preserve a healthy educational environment and not
sacrifice students to increased bureaucracy and social control.
Real costs to school districts
"All 60 districts
have recognized the systems
value and decided to participate." (BCeSIS Stakeholder Relations
Plan, September 2006) Strong-armed would probably be a more accurate
description of why all 60 school districts have jumped on board.
Districts were told that if they did not join BCeSIS they would have
to develop their own system and ensure it does the same thing and is
compatible with BCeSIS.
Instead of the $10 a person per year originally announced, costs
have skyrocketed to $140 a student per year according to one ministry
official. Moreover, although this is a Ministry of Education
initiative, most of the costs fall on school districts. Staff have
been deployed to BCeSIS. Many school districts have had to purchase
higher-end computers for each teacher. Consultants, trainers,
technical support, and conference fees have all added to the costs.
To implement BCeSIS, capital costs alone will set the Vancouver
School Board back $1,723,902 between now and 2008, plus $500,000
student fees per year.
Estimated spending on BCeSIS is $80 million per year. Ironically,
if we only had $84 million returned to school districts, we would be
at the 200102 level of funding when significantly more
resources went directly into the classroom. Precious resources have
been taken from our students to fund this project.
Hidden costsLoss of privacy
Recall the news last Marchthe government auctioned
computer tapes holding the personal medical histories of
approximately 77,000 British Columbians. Despite assurances that the
data on BCeSIS is behind a secure firewall, we are all well aware
that tenacious hackers have broken into much more complex systems.
Data entered in BCeSIS sits on servers connected through the Ministry
of Education PLNet high-speed network that connects all BC schools.
When asked about security of their electronic data, a district
manager in one large metropolitan school district in BC was quoted in
The Province newspaper in April last year, "Were
under constant attack from the outside, and the inside for that
Teacher and parent concerns around confidentiality will
undoubtedly increase significantly when they learn that a private
organization, not government, maintains the system. BC schools have
entered the brave new world of surveillance adopted from our
neighbours to the south.
Hidden costsMisplaced priorities
BCeSIS will have the effect of limiting the way teachers think
about their work, especially new teachers with little or no
experience. For example, BCeSISs training manual refers to
setting up a seating plan for your class with the teacher at the
front of the rooma structure youll be hard put to find in
many of the best classrooms in the province.
Report-card formats limit teacher comments to 80 characters,
approximately 16 words, instead of expressing student learning in
words that fit the individual child. Especially in the primary
grades, student progress should be recorded in words not on a graph
or with a number indicating a level. Participating in the BCeSIS
experiment has resulted in precious time wasted and no educational
benefits at the expense of time spent on instruction and
Notice on BCeSIS web site September 25, 2006:
"BCeSIS Production and Training Outage
BCeSIS shut down at a crucial time in September. It lacked the
band-width and memory for peak demands and September is just one of
those peak times.
Many teachers describe BCeSIS as a nightmarepainfully slow
and frustrating, especially when it loses data. Teachers must create
and remember new passwords every 90 days. They must ensure that the
computer screen is not visible to the students at any time, difficult
when response times are lengthy. And, the software does not allow
them to transfer data from district programs into BCeSIS.
If BCeSIS must be used, only a minimum of information on students
should be required and the full real costs of implementation and
operation should be assumed by the province.