Education Disruption in Nova Scotia
A Disruption and Hindrance to Students’ Access to Public Education
TORONTO, ONTARIO, DECEMBER 17, 2016 -- The Federation of Canadian Secondary Students-Fédération des Élèves du Secondaire au Canada (FCSS-FESC) is a nationwide initiative tirelessly advocating for the welfare, benefit, and rights of students. Recently, it has come to its attention that the closing and re-opening of public schools in Nova Scotia is an urgent concern in need of addressing, as it hinders students from receiving a complete education.
On Saturday, December 3, Education Minister Karen Casey stated that the province’s current policies posed security concerns for students. This prompted the federal government to plan to implement a new bill and contract teachers. And with that statement, the provincial government announced that public schools would close their doors until the passing of the bill, which would require students to remain home until then.
Officials estimated that students would be out of school for a week, but on Monday afternoon, the government abruptly decided to not pass the bill, announcing that “at this point in time, this [Bill 75] is not moving forward.” Shortly after, students and educators were notified to return to schools the following day.
However, the aftermath of the situation and birth of a temporary decision left majority, including the FCSS-FESC, unsatisfied and concerned. “The safety pretext wasn’t true,” Jamie Baillie said. “The government really decided to play politics with students and classrooms.” The response to this was enormous; from elementary schools to secondary schools, concerns were vocalized, the most serious being the Nova Scotia Teachers Union launching their work-to-action campaign.
The work-to-action rule is essentially a teachers strike; and with it, numerous issues arose. One major point is teachers only showing up twenty minutes before class, and twenty minutes after class. This equals no extra-curricular activities and events, and as a result, concerts, trips, practices, and tournaments were cancelled. Unfortunately, the repercussions do not end there. Educators were told to not provide additional aid for student learning; this includes updating learning websites, providing extra-help or tutoring.
Research reveals that strikes harm student learning and academic performance. As Wilfrid Laurier’s David Johnson conducted such studies, he noticed the falling rate of students obtaining passing scores on standardized tests. This is demonstrated through his observations during a teacher work stoppage in Ontario, where math scores plummeted 0.21 percentage points per day. Other subjects did not fare any better, with scores dropping by 0.10 points per day. Meanwhile, smaller schools equipped with an inadequate amount of resources suffered on a larger scale: scores sank by 0.35 points per day. As these numbers add up during the extensive duration of a strike, more significant drops in academic performance ensue, which impacts overall student achievement. To make matters worse, Canadian schools do not compensate for lost instructional time during teacher strikes, which results in damages on student learning.
As an organization that works to ensure the success of students, it is troubling to see the work-to-action practice in effect -- and as the research indicates, it will surely harm student learning and progress. Thus, the FCSS-FESC urges the Nova Scotian government and teachers’ union to promptly arrive at a long-term solution that will not only consider students’ current academic performance, but also their future post-secondary pathways.
The Federation of Canadian Secondary Students | Fédération des Élèves du Secondaire au Canada (FCSS-FESC) aims to deliver the student voice to education stakeholders, when it is often forgotten in daily discourse. We are a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that is led completely by youth. Together, we are the largest student alliance of its kind in Canada. Our programmes supplement public education with networking events, leadership opportunities, peer mentorship, and conferences. Our initiatives are designed to guide Canadian youth of today and ensure their successful tomorrow, whilst working to improve education today.
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