Premier Gordon Campbell has clearly not been listening to the thousands of teachers and parents across BC who, for years, have been calling for the resources and support necessary to meet the diverse needs of students at all levels.
BC Teachers’ Federation President Susan Lambert said teachers will be disappointed with the lack of substance in Campbell’s speech to British Columbians Wednesday evening.
“The premier’s address lacked depth and demonstrates he doesn’t really understand how children learn,” Lambert said. “Teachers and parents know that children learn at their own pace, and we need to support them according to their own learning needs and skill levels.”
His announcement of “voluntary early childhood learning assessment” for children entering full-day Kindergarten is meaningless without additional funding to meet those children’s needs once they are identified, Lambert said. “Kindergarten teachers already assess all of the children coming into their classes, but we no longer have the specialist teachers in schools to work with them. More testing doesn’t help children learn.”
She pointed out that this is the premier who has cut almost 700 special education teachers, and 250 English as a Second Language and Aboriginal education teachers.
“We need to restore that level of service that has been robbed from the public education system over the past ten years of this government,” she said.
Campbell also stated that about 20% of children in Grade 4 are not reading, writing, or doing math at grade level. “This approach is typical of this government’s drive to standardize education and not recognize the uniqueness of each learner. The statement demonstrates that the premier doesn’t understand how children learn and it does a disservice to the many children who are struggling and those whose pace is far beyond grade level.”
Lambert also noted that 20% of children in BC are growing up in poverty, the highest rate in Canada for the last seven years. “There is a direct correlation between poverty and school success. Hungry kids can’t learn. This government needs to look at a comprehensive poverty reduction plan and assistance for low-income families.”
Lambert said teachers were hoping to hear of some relief for the teachers struggling to provide high quality education within a context of large class sizes and high caseloads of learning support teachers.
“This government has done much damage to public education in BC, and this speech won’t help reverse that,” she said, pointing to 191 schools closed, 3,000 fewer teachers, and significant loss of services to students with special needs.