Since 1986, British Columbia has joined other provinces in proclaiming Education Week to recognize and celebrate the important work happening in our schools. This year, Education Week takes place from April 23-27.
In my time as Minister of Education, I’ve travelled around the province and met with students, parents, teachers, staff and trustees. It’s clear our education system has been through challenging times, and I’m proud to be part of a government that is charting a new path forward. We’re supporting our students by investing in education.
Our focus, along with our education partners, is on student success. We have a vision for a school system where all students can reach their full potential and get the quality education they deserve, regardless of their background or where they live. We won’t move student success forward without working together to eliminate these gaps.
To do that, students need to have access to quality teachers and support staff. We’ve hit the ground running to support school districts as they hire record numbers of new teachers, and will continue to restore resources that have been missing from classrooms. Government is also investing in teacher training, to meet the growing demand. Great educators have always been a key part of student success. Their role will be even more important as we focus on driving student achievement forward.
Kindergarten students today will graduate into a world that is vastly different from the one we know now. In order for them to be successful, we need to teach them to never stop learning, embrace technology and develop skills that are valuable to every career – communication, collaboration and critical thinking.
B.C.’s new curriculum allows students to have more input with respect to how, when and where their learning takes place. We are working with our partners on a new graduation program that will give students the best possible chance for future success. We’re also taking a hard look at our provincial assessments to make sure they support the new curriculum, while maintaining high, measurable standards that show us how we’re doing and drive continuous improvement.
In order to reach their full potential, students need comfortable and safe spaces to learn in. That means schools need to be seismically safe, well-maintained and operating properly. We have an aggressive plan to tackle the backlog of seismic projects in B.C., backed by the largest school capital investment in generations – $2 billion over three years. We’ve also increased funding to maintenance programs by more than $20 million over last year, helping schools ensure their water is safer to drink, their heating and cooling systems are working, and their fire alarms are up-to-date.
We also have to look beyond just bricks and mortar when it comes to student comfort and safety, and ensure our schools are welcoming and supportive. There will be an emphasis in 2018 and beyond on improving student mental health. We are working with our partners to find ways to better support students who may be struggling with mental-health issues. Educators and schools also have the Province’s full and unwavering support as they work to ensure students of all sexual orientations and gender identities feel safe and welcome at school.
Great schools have great leadership. We’re investing in leadership development for principals, vice-principals, superintendents and trustees to enable students, educators and school communities to thrive through skilled and effective educational leadership.
Students have waited long enough for an education system that works for them, and that’s what we’re working hard to deliver. I look forward to continuing to build new, respectful relationships with educators, students, parents and school boards throughout B.C. We know that the best way to build a strong society and economy is to put students first by investing in their success. We’ve made great strides so far, and I look forward to continuing our work together.