Letter: Education Must Get the Right Priority

Niovi Patsicakis explains why she's going to run for school trustee in Surrey.

Another week in school, with teachers busy organizing the year, getting to know their students and giving them an exciting, smooth start. After 30 plus years, I miss those new beginnings.

Despite a less than fair settlement, teachers will do their utmost to develop students’ knowledge and skills, in short, to provide the best education they need.

The late start has not been easy, but the continued patience and support of the community will help in getting over BC’s tumultuous school situation.

Teachers took a stand not for personal gain but for improving students’ learning conditions, so now we understand some of the problems they are facing.

The impasse was avoidable had government not appealed the court rulings and not dragged their heels with negotiations. Their motives are for others to determine at election time.

The call for arbitration did put pressure on the government, with over 99 per cent of teachers in agreement, close to 50,000 citizens signing petitions, and thousands attending rallies. Those actions should make us proud to live in Canada as this is what democracy looks like.

Thanks to Vince Ready’s skills, class size, composition and specialist ratios may improve once the courts reaffirm their decisions. As well, teachers will have a little more time for lesson preparation, which is so needed in today’s complex classroom.

We heard the words, “the system is broken,” but I believe that given a better relationship with government and a continued call from parents for more funding, whether from taxes or other savings, we have a chance for excellence in our public education as long as it is given priority.

As much as we need to be hopeful, vigilance is a must. In the BC Education Plan, there is reference to taking away categories of special needs and a focus on more individualized learning. This change would not promote fairness and improve inclusion as some believe.

Not every student requires the same assistance. Equality does not make equity. The reality is that one professional can’t address such a huge variety of needs unless classes are smaller. Even so, what a student with autism needs is different from what a student who is gifted needs.

The only assurance we have that those supports are there is through targeted funding and the right number and type of specialist teachers to give explicit instruction or an extended program. Otherwise unmet needs becomes a human rights issue. A teacher only has so many hours a day, thus the reason for classroom limits of 3 special needs students per class (under Bill 33 now being broken).

Finally, there is a push under the Liberals’ BC Skills for Jobs Blueprint plan for skilled labour training from an early age. An increased absence of academic focus should be unacceptable to all. We are educating democratic, well-rounded critical thinkers and lifelong learners who should be free to pursue any area of study they choose, not go through predetermined educational courses when they are too young for those decisions.

Education is not meant to build economies driven by governments. It must remain a free and rich endeavour.

“Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development.”

– KOFI ANNAN

These are things we need to ponder and discuss as we move forward. There is no better time than now as I will be one of the candidates running for School Trustee in Surrey and promise to ensure public education gets the right priority.

Niovi Patsicakis,

Retired Learning Support Teacher, Facilitator (Supporting Emotional needs of Gifted)

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