BC’s teachers support plans to improve and expand trades and technical education, but those plans must be backed by sufficient funding and collaborative planning across the public education sector.
In response to today’s release of BC’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint: Re-Engineering Education and Training, BCTF President Jim Iker said he’s concerned that, in its rush to maximize potential profits from LNG exploitation, the provincial government may be limiting educational opportunities for the upcoming generation of students. He urged government not to take an either/or approach to education reform.
“We believe that all students, no matter where they live, should have access to the full range of academic courses as well as applied skills, including trades training. Sadly, both types of programs have suffered due to severe underfunding,” Iker said. “When I look back on the range of options in arts, sciences, and technical programs that students used to have, it’s a sharp contrast to today. We need to build those choices again for our students.”
Iker noted that teachers, most of whom are also parents, naturally want their students and children to have sustainable jobs in a secure economic future. But the kind of education young people need for success in today’s world is not limited to hands-on skills. Experts agree that problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and communication skills are now more important than ever.
“We have a responsibility to offer young people a broad and deep educational experience that not only prepares them for the world of work, but also for active citizenship in our democracy,” Iker said, adding that the Ministry of Education itself emphasizes a holistic approach to citizenship education.
Representatives of the BCTF participated in the independent review of the Industry Training Authority, and emphasized teachers’ concerns. The BC Technology Education Association has also issued urgent calls for reinvestment in trades programs to confront a number of serious problems:
- Class size and class composition must be addressed to ensure quality learning opportunities and student safety, especially where high-powered tools are in use.
- Overcrowding in shops and labs has created such serious safety issues that more than one Tech Ed teacher has felt compelled to resign from his job in protest.
- Technical equipment in many schools is so outdated that it would require hundreds of millions of dollars to meet the needs for replacement in K–12 alone.
- Inspections of equipment (such as auto hoists) by qualified personnel must be ensured.
The Technology Educators have published a Best Practices Guide focused on the current issues in their classrooms: http://www.bctea.org/best-practices-guide-document-0
Iker reminded government that in this round of collective bargaining, teachers are attempting to restore safe class sizes and reasonable class compositions so that all students’ needs can be met in trades and lab courses.
Finally, Iker expressed concern that today’s report seems to pre-determine reforms to the graduation program for Grades 10–12. All of the K–12 provincial partner groups have been participating in the government’s extensive Graduation Requirements Review. The process has been positive and productive, but no decisions have yet been reached on how the requirements should be restructured.
“The timelines for the new curriculum and grad review have all been pushed back for several reasons, including uncertainty over funding,” Iker said, adding that he hopes today’s announcement does not undermine the extensive consultation process that has already involved parents, teachers, community members, industry, and ministry representatives.