Local superintendent responds to new education plan

·4 min read

At the beginning of 2021, the provincial government introduced a controversial education overhaul in the form of Bill 64. It would have removed English-speaking school boards in favour of one central authority.

Then, after Premier Brian Pallister stepped down and Heather Stefanson replaced him, the unpopular bill, which was widely denounced by educators and the public alike, got scrapped.

On April 20, the province announced a new piece of legislation to replace it: the Manitoba K-to-12 Education Action Plan. According to the government, this new plan sets out a path to implement recommendations made by the K-to-12 Commission on Education. Many initiatives from this plan have already been set in motion.

The plan is focused on ensuring access to high-quality and equitable education, preparing students for their future, supporting excellence in teaching and leadership, and strengthening the public education system in Manitoba.

One of the dominant features of the plan is the creation of numerous councils, taskforces, and review teams intended to ensure the Commission’s recommendations are met.

For example, a new Student Advisory Council was established in July 2021 and consists of 30 students, aged 14 to 18, with diverse interests, identities, backgrounds, and perspectives from across the province.

This group of students will meet with the Minister of Education, government staff, and education stakeholders to take part in critical discussions on the future of education. They will provide insights and advice on current and emerging issues of importance to students.

The Hanover School Division has been allotted two representatives, both of whom are currently attending schools in Steinbach.

The K-to-12 Education Action Plan also lists seven other taskforces and special advisory groups: the Attendance Task Force, the Curriculum Advisory Panel, the Education Funding Model Review Team, the Indigenous Inclusion Directorate Advisory Council, the Minister’s Advisory Council on Inclusive Education, the Parent Engagement Task Force, and the Poverty and Education Task Force.

The size of these groups ranges from approximately 12 to 24 members each.

The plan also states that “to facilitate a system-wide approach to planning, an Education Council will be established in 2022. The council will provide strategic guidance and advice on the implementation of the action plan and will support a focused process with partners and stakeholders on the monitoring and reporting of progress.”

Hanover’s Reaction to New Plan

While elements named in the new plan are already in motion, local educators remain in the dark about many of the specifics.

The new Education Council, with its “system-wide approach to planning,” has not yet been clarified with leaders in the Hanover School Division.

“We have not yet been made privy to the details, such as timelines, who, goals, objectives, etc.,” says Shelley Amos, HSD superintendent. “We are aware of goals/objectives as published in the Action Plan.”

Similarly, Amos says few details about the plan, including the eight taskforces and special advisory groups already in place, have been shared with educators.

“Limited information has been shared regarding the taskforces and special advisory groups at this point, so I find it hard to make any statement,” Amos adds. “I certainly do not recall an endeavour such as this one with as many taskforces, committees, and advisory groups in recent years.”

While details may be vague and Amos’s ability to observe the taskforce groups at work is limited, Amos says that the division is pleased with some aspects that they do see in the plan.

“We are pleased to see Manitoba Education and Early Childhood Learning take a collaborative approach and honour experienced voices from the field,” Amos says. “We look forward to a continued emphasis on partnership with school divisions.”

The plan exhibits few carryovers from Bill 64, focusing less on a drastic overhaul of the education system and more on emphasizing the quality of curriculum and delivery, as well as learning outcomes.

An aspect of the plan that Amos is most excited for is the new Framework for Learning, which the province says will “guide curriculum and assessment, development and implementation.”

The Curriculum Advisory Panel for this new framework was established in September 2021 and Amos feels it will be one of the most to positive and beneficial parts of the plan.

“The Framework for Learning is the right type of work to focus our energy on,” says Amos. “We are excited to see a focus on competencies, as that aligns with our HSD Deeper Learning Plan. We believe there is a good opportunity for ongoing curriculum review as provided in the Framework with direct involvement from teachers.”

As educators and the public continue to wait for more specifics, Amos says she will be watching for information on possible areas of new funding to support education needs throughout the province.

“We would certainly be eager to learn more regarding the new funding formula and how it will align with the pillars in the action plan, along with any provision for additional resources to the Hanover School Division,” says Amos.

Sara Beth Dacombe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Niverville Citizen

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