Question re: New plan for education - November 26, 2015

Mr. Silver: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The final section of the budget speech in the spring outlined yet another attempt by this government to redesign our education system. Big, block letters proclaimed, “A New Vision: A Made-in-Yukon K to 12 Education Curriculum”. This is the third or fourth try over the last 13 years that this government has been in office to redesign, makeover or lead the Department of Education.

It follows the New Horizons project that was just implemented in 2010, and before that we had the Education Act review followed by the education reform project. To say that the results have been mixed is an understatement. I have spoken with many people in the education field since the government’s announcement in the spring. Not one of them has identified creating an entirely new curriculum as a top priority.

Where did this idea to develop a new curriculum come from, which seems to have caught many people off guard?

Hon. Mr. Graham: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The new vision for education is an attempt — we trust will be successful. But it is an attempt to ensure that some of the things that have occurred in the past don’t occur in the future. That’s why we are involving all of our partners in education, from parents, students, First Nations, school councils and educators themselves. They are all involved in this process to ensure that the students who are in our system at the present time and in the future will have a reasonably good chance of graduating or pursuing a career of their choice — pursuing the further education of their choice — without the barriers under the current system.

Mr. Silver: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am sure that Yukoners will follow with great interest and plenty of scepticism over the following year this new plan from Education. It’s my view that Education doesn’t need another examination or a master plan for education reform. It needs to implement and assess the work that has already been done. The ink on the budget was barely dry before the government started to back away from this commitment anyway.

The budget said a new curriculum for K to 12. Earlier in the spring, the minister said K to 7 was a priority, and in the minister’s new mandate letter in August, the minister was told to begin the development of the Yukon curriculum — without any mention of specific grades. However, now the new vision education website makes no mention of a total revamping of curriculum. Which is it? Is it K to 12? Is it K to 7 — or another navel-gazing exercise that doesn’t improve outcomes for our students?

Hon. Mr. Graham: Mr. Speaker, this is one of the reasons that the member is sitting opposite and we’re sitting over here. We have that vision that is necessary to ensure that education is revamped in such a way that there is no disruption to current students. We are not going to rush out tomorrow and redevelop curriculum for kindergarten to grade 12, as the member opposite seems to believe. This is going to be a well-thought-out process. This is going to be a process that’s very inclusive and that is tailored to the students’ needs. I had the opportunity to speak with two groups of high-school students — one in Dawson City, representing rural students from around the territory, and again in Whitehorse. They were very clear about what they wanted to see in education.

They were also pleased to see some of the changes we were suggesting that should be taking place because, Mr. Speaker, whatever way we go with the new vision of education, the thing that we have to keep in the back of our minds at all times is that it’s about the children; it’s about the students in the classes — and that’s the part that the member opposite seems to forget.

Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, whichever way we go — pick one. This new vision has not even got off the ground yet and they’re in the last year of the mandate. Mr. Speaker, in the Budget Address in the spring, the government had all the answers — a new curriculum was needed top to bottom. Never mind that it was never mentioned before, the government decided in the spring and therefore it was an appropriate thing for them to talk about in their budget speech.

Now six months later, the focus has shifted from curriculum changes to another visioning exercise. The Yukon Party has had several of these over the last 13 years and they’ve had marginal impacts for the students — marginal impacts for the students, Mr. Speaker.

The website states — and I quote: “The goal of this process is not to create another report or document…” However, given the record of this Yukon Party government over the last 13 years, people are skeptical, students are skeptical, parents are skeptical and so are teachers.

Mr. Speaker, why does the minister — what does the minister hope to accomplish before the next election on this —

Speaker: Order, please. The member’s time has elapsed.

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. What we have heard certainly has been excitement about a vision, Mr. Speaker — creating a vision to ensure that our focus in education is on successful student outcomes, Mr. Speaker. That’s how we want to see this move forward, and that is by creating different pathways.

Mr. Speaker, the BC curriculum allows for one pathway to success and we believe that different students need different approaches and that’s why part of our Yukon curriculum would be creating different pathways to success, Mr. Speaker — something that we’ve heard very loud from students and teachers, educators and parents that they are very excited about.

We also recognize that schools and teachers have to deal with some non-academic issues as well and we’re there to listen and look for ways to support those teachers as well. I will acknowledge that the Leader of the Liberal Party says that this government has lots of visions and we absolutely do, Mr. Speaker. We have a vision for education, we have a vision for new hydro and we have a vision to ensure that this territory becomes a net contributor. What we see from the other side of the House is no vision, Mr. Speaker.