The Manitoba Commission on Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education released a public discussion paper April 12 and will be in Thompson April 25 for one of 10 public workshops on how to improve education in this province.
The discussion paper focuses on areas such as preparing students for a rapidly changing world and achieving excellence in outcomes, as well as how to equip teachers and students with the tools for success, introducing more accountability into the system, what governance structures are required to achieve better outcomes for Manitoba students, and how to fund the public education system to ensure it is sustainable and that money is going to the areas where it is needed most.
“During the past 15 years, Manitoba’s K to 12 students have not kept pace with students in other jurisdictions in reading, math and science on pan-Canadian and international assessments,” the discussion paper says. “These results, among many other indicators, suggest that many students are not adequately prepared to compete and succeed after Grade 12 as they transition to work or post-secondary education.”
There were nearly 210,000 students in Manitoba on Sept. 30 of last year, about 90 per cent of them in public schools, seven per cent in funded independent schools, two per cent being homeschooled and one per cent in non-funded independent schools.
The school system employs nearly 15,000 full-time and part-time teachers, almost 1,000 administrators, more than 600 support staff such as counsellors and specialist teachers and about 6,000 education assistants. There are 37 schools boards overseeing a total of 699 schools, with the number of students in a given district ranging from less than 1,000 to more than 33,000. There are 297 elected school board trustees in the province and approximately 110 superintendents, assistant superintendents and directors employed by school divisions.
The provincial government is providing about $1.4 billion to kindergarten to Grade 12 education this school year, while total operating costs, which are also covered by education property taxes levied by school districts, are $2.4 billion. The discussion paper says that per-student expenditures in Manitoba’s provincial school system are higher than in every other province except Alberta.
About half of early and middle-years students in Manitoba meet expectations in all areas of provincial assessments and less than 40 per cent meet expectations in all provincial assessment areas relating to mathematics. Approximately 90 per cent of Grade 9 students pass their math and language arts courses but only 40 per cent achieve marks of 80 per cent or higher. Nearly 80 per cent of students graduate within four years of entering Grade 9 but fewer than half of Indigenous students do.
In addition to Thompson, there will be four interactive public workshops in Winnipeg between April 24 and May 15, as well as one each in The Pas, Brandon, Dauphin, Carman and Steinbach. The Thompson meeting will be from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Westwood School April 25.
People and organizations can also make their thoughts on the education system known by submitting written submissions or formal briefs. Formal briefs will be considered requests to appear at public hearings and some who submit them will be invited to make presentations to the commission at public hearings, particularly if they are putting forth bold recommendations and innovative solutions and have not been heard through other public engagement opportunities. The commission will also hold meetings with students and other stakeholders. There will also be two online surveys – one for the general and one for teachers.
“Manitoba students and their families deserve excellence in education,” said commission co-chair Clayton Manness in a press release. “A strong education can set students up for success – in the workforce, in post-secondary education, and in life in general.”
Other commissioners include education legislative assistant Ian Wishart, co-chair Dr. Janice MacKinnon, Terry Brown, Mark Frison, John Daniel Lees, Laura Repski, Denis Robert and Thompson’s Jill Quilty, a native of Newfoundland and former educator who practises criminal, divorce and family law with Law North Corporation. Quilty ran unsuccessfully for a spot as a School District of Mystery Lake trustee in the October municipal elections. She holds a juris doctorate from Dalhousie University and a master of education degree from Mount Saint Vincent University and was formerly an instructor and co-ordinator at College of the North Atlantic in Newfoundland & Labrador. Quilty specialized in literacy education in her master’s degree program and has volunteered with the Juniper Centre as well as serving as a member of the Truth and Reconciliation Academic Working Group, the Ad Hoc Response Committee for Gender Discrimination, and the Indigenous, Black and Mi’kmaq Standing Committee.