LANE: What principles will guide education in Manitoba?

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Manitoba’s public education system is not serving students and their parents well. The major problem is that neither the students nor their parents know how well students are doing in the basic subjects, the core knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the future.

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But we know what students need.

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Students need an education that will help them: 1) get a fulfilling job, 2) participate in our democratic process that preserves our freedom, and 3) discover fulfilling leisure-time activities. These goals require students to cooperate with each other and their teachers, which is also an important educational goal. These are the aspects of a productive education that the philosopher Mortimer Adler identified more than 35 years ago.

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The government received a comprehensive report in March 2021 from the Manitoba Commission on Kindergarten to Grade 12 (Commission). This first-rate report correctly showed that public school students are not well-prepared to either enter the workforce or succeed in institutions of higher education. Also, it reported young people are not participating in the democratic process.

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Then, the government spent considerable resources fashioning an Action Plan, one based on solid research and conservative principles, identifying ways to improve public education. Yet, parents and taxpayers were then surprised by a Winnipeg Free Press article this July (“Manitoba seeks K-12 curriculum evaluation consultant”). The government had published a “Request for Proposals” (RFP), worth $ 250,000, to assess the same education issues that were assessed by the past. Commissionwhich had cost millions of dollars.

This makes no sense.

The PC government, by turning its back on both its own Commission and its Action Plan, has decided to put improving education on ice until after the next election.

This is unfortunate, with recent public opinion polls clearly showing that parents and taxpayers want Manitoba’s educational system to be tightened up to the higher standards set in other provinces and countries.

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Parents know that their children’s education suffered because of the COVID pandemic when schools were closed for varying lengths of time. Now, they are anxious to know how far they are behind.

It appears the PC government has given up fighting the upcoming election on education, which is – after health care – the second most expensive program the government manages.

If the PC party manages to win the next coming election – not a sure thing – they will need to begin developing educational policies reflecting the needs of students and their parents. Parents and taxpayers must wonder why the government did the groundwork for their Action Planonly to put it on ice.

If the PC government loses the coming election, it will have difficulty criticizing an NDP government on its educational policies. Simply, the PC’s policy book will have blank pages under the heading “education,”Because they will have commissioned an outsider to help them formulate new educational policies, and that report will not be ready before the election campaign begins.

Manitoba citizens deserve more. They are being let down by the Heather Stefanson PC government, and parents, – indeed all taxpayers – should let their MLAs know that they expected more. If the PCs do not side with parents and their children, who do they expect to vote for them in the coming 2023 election?

– Graham Lane is a retired CPA CA, with a 40-plus year career in the private and public sectors.

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