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Education

Bring back and enhance the traditional role of the community as having a key responsibility for shaping and managing the education system, and ensure equal educational opportunity among all young people across the Island.

We all know how vital education is in giving youth not just knowledge, but also meaning: critical thinking and a more thoughtful approach to life, a launch into a decent livelihood, a sense of belonging and social responsibility, all of which pay off in consequent contribution to the community.

A guiding principle for NDP PEI is called ‘subsidiarity’: — making decisions and acting on the smallest practical scale, at the closest level to the community is effective — avoiding top-down generalization as much as possible, and really involving people.

education

NDP MLAs will work to:

  • Implement elected School Boards
  • Align the school-board election with municipal elections to increase voter participation
  • Call for an immediate pay increase for early childhood educators of $7 per hour.
  • To start the construction of the new school in the Evangeline Region.
  • Develop an up-to-date staffing and funding system [5.2], include a supportive weighting technique which compensates for lower enrolment in setting staff numbers for a small-but-important school.
  • Ensure specialized support is provided to classroom teachers, in order to meet differing learning needs of individual students.
  • Eliminate the PEI-pieces of testing, in favour of the national/international assessments (such as PISA) which appear to offer more value for monitoring the education system.
  • Ensure Free post-secondary tuition for Island students for their first degree or diploma.
  • Research, design and pilot testing of a universal school breakfast program, beginning with the elementary grades at every school  and, dependent on evaluation of the effect and feasibility,
  • Continue advocating for a Universal Canadian child-care program.
  • Make adaptations in physical school facilities and in the ‘culture’ of a school (example method: Gay and Straight Alliances) to accommodate the spectrum of gender identity.
  • Implement a comprehensive sexual education curriculum.

Elected School Boards

We stand for elected school boards, both French and English, with responsibility and the necessary powers to manage the operations of Island schools, in an accountable-to-the-public manner.

The current structure is absurd: a French-language board, but a pseudo-body called the Public Schools Branch to manage English-language schools.  The Liberal Government trashed the English Board in frustration about a temporary situation, and replaced it with a wasteful web of token advisory bodies which meet a couple of times a year and can’t do anything but submit opinions. 

There are fuzzy layers of input and authority clutter, without genuine self-determination — which reflects the old parties’ lack trust in citizens to choose representatives who will represent their stake as users.

“The mish-mash of structures confuses teachers, administrators, parents and the wider public … What’s missing is accountability and responsiveness to the experience of users.” - A retired teacher

 NDP PEI calls for:

  • Re-establishing an elected school board to administer the operational elements (staffing, busing, finances etc.) of the province’s English-language schools.
  • Aligning the school-board election with municipal elections to increase voter participation.
  • Eliminating the redundant advisory bodies which duplicate the function of Home and School associations.
  • Supporting and strengthening the French-language school system.

Staffing and Funding formulas

We stand for a thorough updating of how money and staff get allocated to schools.

Major studies in 2004 and 2010 were well done, with the good aim of bringing order and fairness to distributing resources.  The reports were not made entirely public and not fully implemented.  Clearly the population and conditions in schools have changed enormously in this decade.  So let's go back to the drawing-board … 

  • A full study — in consultation with PEITF, CUPE and other stakeholders, done in an open-to-the-public way — to analyze and project school-by-school needs, and from that data provide policies and formulas to guide how the Department of Education allocates money and staff types and numbers to individual schools.

School Facilities

We stand for a practical case-by-case approach to the viability of small schools, and strong effort to keep small schools alive through the principle of multi-purposing.

Schools are the life-blood of many communities, and as population shifts, a number are under threat of being closed.  The MacLauchlan Government went through a charade of study and consultation about this, without reaching sound policy conclusions. IT  THAT IS UNACCEPTABLE THAT TEACHERS, STAFF AND ADMINISTRATORS HAVE TO FUND-RAISE FOR THEIR SCHOOLS

NDP PEI is guided by the principle of pragmatic balance — the quality of curricular offerings and special programs, and sustainability which a larger scale offers, vis-à-vis the quality of personalized attention in a smaller setting.  We will try our best to keep small schools, especially in rural areas, functioning through these methods:

  • The ‘Hub’ project, to sustain an under-utilized school by making it a community centre which offers good education plus a range of health and social services serving students, and also the wider resident population.  [Description in 4.1 under Health]
  • As part of the development of an up-to-date staffing and funding system [5.2], include a supportive weighting technique which compensates for lower enrolment in setting staff numbers for a small-but-important school.
  • As well, for retrofitting existing buildings and for all new construction, we clearly need to use advanced technology and energy conservation to reduce cost and greenhouse gas emission.
  • Construction of the new school in the Evangeline Region.
  • No Public-Private Projects. Public infrastructure is owned from day one by the public.

Specialized services

We stand for providing specialized support to classroom teachers, in order to meet differing learning needs of individual students.

We all know that education is not a matter of simply transmitting a standard block of knowledge to a block of two dozen same-learning persons.  We are conscious of - the shortage of educational psychologists for assessing and acting on learning and behavioural challenges;

  • The need for more Special Needs and Learning Disabilities specialists to ensure that pupils with a variety of capacities get assessment and regular remedial measures;
  •  The importance of Educational Assistants in offering individualized help to a child and support for a teacher;
  • The effects of immigration on the range of language capability, and the need for EAL specialists
  • The analysis of need for all such specialized teaching and support services must be a key piece of the study of the staffing and funding system.  [section 5.2]
  • Incentives and scholarship supports must be designed to attract people to choose and get training in such specialized fields.

Standardized testing

We believe in standardized testing to continually evaluate the effectiveness of the educational system,but avoidance of wasteful over-testing.

There is no question that the Department needs to assess, in an on-going year-to-year way, the patterns of outcomes of curriculum and methods.  But there is a tendency to over-assess: there are simply too many tests with overlapping purposes, and that eats up efforts and resources. It is important to affirm that this is about outcome patterns for the system as a whole, that we rely on schools and classroom teachers to evaluate the progress and needs of individual students.

NDP PEI recommends:

  • Eliminating the PEI-pieces of testing, in favour of the national/international assessments (such as PISA) which appear to offer more value for monitoring the education system.

Post-secondary Education

Young people, all of them, should not be blocked by financial need from continuing their preparation for a self-supporting life … and that they should not be saddled with debt as they begin work

The evidence from Europe is clear: a society benefits enormously from investing in universal access to third-level education. 

We stand for equality of access, without financial barrier, to higher learning and applied training. Of course it is in society’s best interest to educate and successfully launch all its young people.  Historically, elementary school was once seen as the launch; then grade 12 was the standard requirement for earning a livelihood.  We know that no longer works: everyone needs further preparation.

NDP PEI advocates two strategies:

  • Free post-secondary tuition for Island students for their first degree or diploma.
  • Shift how schools offer curricular options and provide career counselling, to encourage students to see occupational options in the trades and other applied technology, and bolster the apprenticeship program.

School breakfast and Lunch

We stand for making sure that the learning of youngsters is fuelled with adequate nutrition to start the school day, and recharged at noontime.

The necessity for learning on a full stomach is well known. Good-food programs have proven their worth in places like France, and we’ve seen the success here on PEI as some individual schools, often with help from a community group, have run limited breakfast projects. 

NDP PEI therefore commits to:

  • research, design and pilot testing of a universal school breakfast program, beginning with the elementary grades at every school and, dependent on evaluation of the effect and feasibility,
  • expansion of such breakfast program to the rest of the school system.
  • progression to a comparable development of a universal lunch program.
  • Using locally sourced and healthy foods in such programs.

Early Childhood Education

We stand for supporting pre-school educators with a reasonable income.

These are among the most important people in society — those who engage and help develop our children at the beginning stages.  The Province has failed in its commitment to assure them a liveable income consistent with their training and responsibility.

  • NDP PEI calls for an immediate pay increase for early childhood educators of $7 per hour.

Affordable Child Care

We stand for a universal subsidized child care program at the national level.

This has been a chief campaign feature for the NDP for years: child care for all, on the model of the Quebec program, at a flat-rate charge such as $15 a day.

This is important for education — for an early contribution to childhood development, and for the practical purposes of before and after-school arrangements to support working parents.

  • NDP PEI promises to keep pushing for a Canadian child-care program.

Gender and Sexuality Identity in the school system

We believe schools should offer a welcoming environment for students of all gender identities, and in providing realistic education about matters of gender and sexuality.

NDP PEI is committed to:

  • making adaptations in physical facilities and in the ‘culture’ of a school (example method: Gay and Straight Alliances) to accommodate the spectrum of gender identity
  • a comprehensive sexual education curriculum.

NDP PEI believes in public education as a cornerstone of a progressive society.  It is a public asset which belongs to all, and it is the democratic right and duty of citizens to be genuinely involved in the formative education of our young people.