The province is being challenged to make significant changes to the way education is delivered in Nova Scotia.
The Minister’s Panel on Education released a report today, Oct. 30, that contains seven themes that represent what almost 19,000 Nova Scotians said are the most important issues to improve the system.
“The panel is pleased to present our results of our review. We took a holistic look and are all proud to assist the Province of Nova Scotia in charting a course for change in our education system,” said Myra Freeman, panel chair.
“With such a high level of participation from Nova Scotians, the panel is in a strong position to identify the issues that government and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development need to address most urgently.”
Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Karen Casey accepted the report and announced work will begin immediately on an action plan to create changes in the education system.
“I want to thank the panel for all of the work they have done over the past nine months, and thank all Nova Scotians who took the time to share their feedback on the province’s education system,” said Ms. Casey. “I know Nova Scotians are passionate about the quality of learning and education that students receive.
I look forward to reviewing the report and creating an action plan for change.”
Nova Scotians presented mixed views about the quality of the public school system, with 50 per cent expressing dissatisfaction.
The report focuses on areas where a compelling case can be made for change and the greatest areas of concern for Nova Scotians. The themes of the report are:
— Strengthen the curriculum to transform teaching and learning
— Make high-quality teaching the norm in every classroom
— Prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s opportunities
— Ensure that inclusion is working for everyone
— Create a positive climate for learning
— Collaborate for improved student health and well-being
— Build a modern-day structure for teaching and learning
Key points Nova Scotians brought up during consultations were:
— Many teachers, parents, administrators and students expressed the need for fewer curriculum areas and more time to master key areas of learning — math and literacy.
— Curriculum at the early elementary level for all subjects should be integrated, with math and literacy as the foundation.
— Teacher education, certification, discipline, hiring and professional development were cited as critical areas for improvement.
— Students need more support entering and leaving the school system, as well as from grade to grade.
— Many Nova Scotians feel students are not ready for the workforce and post-secondary learning when they graduate from high school.
— There are concerns about advancing students to the next grade with peers even if they are not academically ready.
— There is support for the principles of inclusion, but it is not working in its current model. In the absence of appropriate levels of support, inclusion has introduced a new layer of complexity to classrooms, and teachers are struggling to effectively meet the needs of all students.
— Respect between students, teachers and parents was a common theme, as was ensuring schools are welcoming and reflective of cultural groups.
— Creating a positive school climate is a shared responsibility. All staff, students, parents and community partners must work together to create respect and take action against bullying and violence in schools.
— The role of the school has expanded over the years. It is expected to ensure students succeed academically, but also faces issues such as obesity, mental health, career planning, and health and well-being.
— There is an urgent need to continue work on improving the physical health of children and youth in the province. Nova Scotians say schools are taking the right steps to contribute to students’ health and well-being, but add there is a need for more physical activity during the school day and a greater focus on mental health awareness.
— The province needs to look for ways to improve how the school system is funded and governed. Concerns were raised about a system that is not working as well as it should for students.
The report is the first comprehensive review of Nova Scotia’s school system in 25 years. The full report, Disrupting the Status Quo: Nova Scotians Demand a Better Future for Every Student, is available at www.novascotia.ca/review .