Canada @ 150 – Eight big ideas to strengthen public education

By Bernie Froese-Germain

The genesis of public education in Canada and the birth of the Canadian federation have some important commonalities. They are both approximately the same age – public education has its origins in the latter half of the 19th century. More importantly, they are both works in progress, continually evolving to meet new needs and demands, one supporting and strengthening the other.

On the role that public education plays in a democratic society, philosopher and essayist John Ralston Saul eloquently stated that:

Any weakening of universal public education can only be a weakening of the long-standing essential role universal public education plays in making us a civilized democracy.
www.publiceducationnetworksociety.com/the-charter.html

In a similar vein, American philosopher and educational reformer John Dewey observed a century ago that:

It is no accident that all democracies have put a high estimate upon education; that schooling has been their first care and enduring charge. Only through education can equality of opportunity be anything more than a phrase. Accidental inequalities of birth, wealth, and learning are always tending to restrict the opportunities of some as compared with those of others. Only free and continued education can counteract those forces which are always at work to restore, in however changed a form, feudal oligarchy. Democracy has to be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife.
https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/John_Dewey

The historic milestone of Canada’s 150th anniversary is an appropriate time to reflect on the future of public education: what kind of public education system do we need to support the vision of an inclusive, equitable, sustainable, prosperous Canada?

No one could argue that public education doesn’t play a central role in creating our future society – unfortunately, the typical discourse around educational innovation and change too often equates with standardized, market-driven reforms which undermine equity. Teachers’ organizations attempt to provide an important counter-narrative to this flawed mindset.

So, with that in mind, here are some “big” ideas (in no particular order) to strengthen public education in Canada.

  1. Education for reconciliation – In the wake of the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report and its Calls to Action, CTF firmly believes education is vitally important to the healing and reconciliation process and is committed to working together with Indigenous organizations and our other educational partners toward this end.
  2. The teacher voice – Classroom teachers, the experts on teaching and learning, are best positioned to know what students require to be successful in the broadest sense of the term. As such, it is vitally important to involve and incorporate the teaching profession’s views on educational change. Indeed, Jelmer Evers and René Kneyber, editors of Flip the System: Changing Education From the Ground Up, published last year by Education International (EI), argue that teachers can and should take the lead on education reform. https://www.teachers.ab.ca/Publications/ATA%20Magazine/Volume-96-2015-16/Number-1/Pages/Book-review.aspx
  3. Support for collaborative professionalism – The importance of fostering a system culture of collaborative professionalism to improve teaching and learning is one of the main recommendations of a recent study on the state of professional learning in Canada. According to Andy Hargreaves, “professional learning and development (PLD) is most effective when it takes place within a culture of collaborative professionalism where teachers work and plan together, take shared responsibility for all students’ learning in each other’s classes and schools, and undertake inquiry in teams to solve problems in their schools”.
    https://learningforward.org/who-we-are/announcements/press-releases/2016/12/05/findings-from-a-study-of-educators-professional-learning-in-canada-released-today
  4. Social and economic conditions matter – Socio-economic factors (such as child poverty and mental illness) can have an impact on student learning and educational outcomes. Improving the broader social and economic conditions of children and their families will ultimately benefit learning and the overall quality of public education.
  5. Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) – We need to deepen our awareness and understanding of global education reform and how these changes are impacting our schools and education systems. Features of GERM include school choice (charter schools, voucher programs, etc.), increased competition between schools, test-based accountability, and the narrowing of curriculum. To take one example, the growth of international benchmark testing such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD’s) PISA is influencing educational policy and practice in ways that can be detrimental to the goals of public education.
  6. Achieving excellence through equity – The Alberta Teachers’ Association’s (ATA’s) blueprint for educational development in Alberta, A Great School for All (PDF – 1.3 MB), takes a systematic holistic approach to educational change with equity as its foundation. The blueprint contains 12 dimensions of change which “are interconnected and recognize that schools are complex living communities that exist within an ecology bounded by culture, community, socio-economic realities, political environments and global trends and pressures.”
  7. Increase support for diversity – Given the incredible diversity of classrooms and schools – and the richness and strength that lies therein – providing the necessary supports and services for students with special needs including students with mental health problems is absolutely critical.
  8. Stem the growing tide of privatization in/of public education – Over the past two years, CTF has been actively involved in the Global Response campaign, an international effort – coordinated by EI and endorsed at the EI World Congress in Ottawa in 2015 – opposed to the privatization and commercialization of public education. The campaign has two complementary pillars:
    • Advocate for governments to do what they’re supposed to do – act in the interest of the public good with adequate funding, resources and policy to ensure quality inclusive public education.
    • Endeavour to interrupt and stop “edu-businesses” such as Pearson and Bridge International Academies from profiting at the expense of access for all to free quality publicly funded public education.

    As part of the Global Response campaign, the recently launched We The Educators initiative, a series of animated short videos supported by a detailed literature review, is intended to catalyze new conversations about the relationship between educational technology and the privatization, standardization, datafication, and (de)personalization of education.

While not exhaustive by any means, this list does touch on some core issues for the teaching profession in its efforts to ensure the provision of quality public education for all – for the next 150 years and beyond.

*This article was first published in the June 2017 issue of PerspectivesCTF’s Web magazine.

We The Educators — A new conversation about the future of public education

Education systems around the world are now witness to a variety of educational changes and improvements, numerous social and economic disruptions, and the onset of rapid technological advances that were unimaginable in the past. Within this tsunami of change, innovative teaching and learning practices that employ emerging technologies are sweeping into schools and classrooms with the broader goal of transforming student learning.

While technologies present education systems with both significant opportunities and challenges, some of the most profound developments are related to standardisation, personalisation, privatisation, and the datafication of learning.

To this end, Education International (EI), the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) and the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) identified a need to explore the interdisciplinary research underpinning technology-driven datafication and its effects on teaching and learning around the world.

We the Educators - Educational Technology and the Personalisation, Standardisation, Privatisation and Datafication of EducationThis literature review (PDF – 601 KB) attempts to provide a balanced view of the interdisciplinary concepts under investigation in order to inform an analysis of the converging fields of educational technology and datafication. It is part of a larger project, entitled “We the Educators” (www.wetheeducators.com), which brings the concepts explored in this research to life through video and animation in multiple languages.

It is hoped that this project will stimulate a rich public dialogue—and greater professional scrutiny—around the relationship between the datafication of education systems and the (de)personalization, privatization and standardization of student learning. We invite colleagues and advocates for quality public education worldwide to draw on this research and to use the videos to continue the conversations.

This project is the result of a global collaborative effort of many talented people including Graham Brown-Martin and teams from EI (Angelo Gavrielatos, Nikola Wachter and Mar Candela), the ATA (Dr Philip McRae, Dr Lindsay Yakimyshyn and Dr J-C Couture) and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (Cassandra Hallett, Bernie Froese-Germain). The collective attention, analysis, support and imagination provided by all of these individuals has brought to life a project with the intention to inform and help to (re)shape the future of teaching and learning.

All of the partners in this project will continue to research and advocate for the conditions of professional practice required to create teaching and learning environments that advance the goal of strong publicly-funded public education systems: to educate all children and youth well.


Please follow, like and connect to these platforms and help us spread this conversation.

Website: https://wetheeducators.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WeTheEducators
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WeTheEducators
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/WeTheEducators/
Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/WeTheEducators
YouTube: http://bit.ly/WTEyoutube

APEC schools’ model undermines education quality

Teachers’ unions call for greater funding of public education, not private

studentsbeforeprofit-philippines_small

Amid an educational system “overburdened and underresourced,” the Affordable Private Education Center (APEC) Schools, a joint venture of international education company Pearson and Philippine business giant Ayala Corporation, seek to provide for-profit secondary education through an edu-business model approved by the Department of Education (DepEd) raising questions on quality and teachers’ rights.

With over 10,000 students in Grades 7 to 9 and Grade 11, the education chain now operates schools in 29 sites in Metro Manila and nearby provinces. APEC aims to establish 500 schools in 10 years enrolling up to 250,000 students.

Through an agreement signed in 2013, DepEd has in effect waived its existing regulations for private schools in basic education in favor of APEC and its “market-based solutions in order to grow more private schooling …, instead of building more government schools.”

apec-003APEC has been renting unused office spaces in commercial buildings instead of constructing school facilities on purchased land, a practice which would have been in violation of DepEd regulations on size, location and accessibility of school buildings, Riep’s research revealed. Other facilities such as science laboratories, libraries, and gymnasiums are either inexistent, not fully equipped, or shared among APEC schools.

Riep’s study also found that up to 70 percent of APEC’s teachers are not licensed. The teachers are then paid low wages and asked to stick to standardized lesson plans.

In an earlier statement, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) called on DepEd to repeal its agreement with APEC and for the government to divert to the public education system the P12 billion fund now being allocated to vouchers, which are given to students to attend private schools like APEC.

“P12 billion could have built around 30,000 classrooms and could have catered to more than one million students. Solving the problems of public education is not through privatization schemes. The voucher system is designed to shift money away from public schools and to private schools including for-profit schools such as APEC, making education highly profitable in the Philippines,” said Raymond Basilio, ACT national secretary-general.

He added that APEC’s non-compliance with DepEd requirements for private schools shows how APEC values profiting from students and the voucher system, putting profit before the well-being of Filipino youth.

In the DepEd budget hearing at the House of Representatives on September 2, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said that APEC’s agreement with the department has not been renewed for the present school year and is under review.

Other previous research by EI and Riep has also expressed concern over the growth in countries such as Kenya and Uganda of private for-profit school chains employing unqualified teachers, providing scripted lessons and using unsuitable environments for learning to drive down costs.

Riep’s study titled “Corporatised Education in the Philippines: Pearson, Ayala Corporation, and the emergence of Affordable Private Education Centers (APEC)” can be accessed here.

Media contact:
Raymond Basilio, ACT Teachers: +63 917 638 9151
Curtis Riep, University of Alberta: riep@ualberta.ca

Report on edu-business in Uganda describes deficiencies and substandard operations

student-before-profit

A new study released Oct. 5 by Education International (EI) reveals how profits come before students and how legal standards in education have been disregarded by an edu-business operating in Uganda.

The EI report, “Schooling the Poor Profitably”, follows weeks of investigation into the operations of Bridge International Academies (BIA) in Uganda where it has established 63 private for-profit schools, since February 2015, with an estimated 12,000 fee-paying customers. This is the same company that attempted to intimidate Canadian researcher, Curtis Riep, by having him falsely accused and arrested while he was in Uganda last May.

The company has been the subject of significant criticism for failing to meet legal and educational standards and a government order closed all the schools in August. Although the schools have since reopened temporarily, EI is keeping a watchful eye.

In summary, the report’s key findings are:

  • 9 of 10 teachers hired by BI are unqualified and unlicensed;
  • Teachers read from a script as part of the BI ‘Academy-in-a-box’, with pre-programmed curricula transferred to tablet e-readers;
  • BIA facilities are below par, with reports of “poor hygiene and sanitation” in school buildings which often do not meet the Basic Requirements and Minimum Standards;
  • School fees prevent poor families from sending their children to school;
  • School fees are 20% of family income – per child;
  • Drop-out rates are high – from 10 to 60%.

For further information, please see the following statement issued by EI:

The grip of Bridge International Academies in Uganda

The education provided by Bridge International Academies (BIA) in Uganda disregards legal and educational standards established by the Government, according to a new study by Education International (EI). These include requirements to employ qualified teachers, observe the national curriculum and standards related to school facilities.

BIA is one of the largest education for-profit companies in the world, with plans to sell basic education services directly to 10 million fee-paying students in low-income communities throughout Africa and Asia by 2025. In Uganda, BIA has expanded rapidly since February 2015, with an estimated 12,000 fee-paying students. However, in August, the Permanent Secretary of Uganda decided to close all BIA schools due the company’s failure to meet the Government’s educational and legal standards.

EI’s analysis of Bridge’s curriculum and pedagogy reveals serious implications for teachers and students that fundamentally alters the nature and practice of education itself. The company has created a business plan based on strict standardisations, automated technology, cheap school structures, and internet-enabled devices that are used to carry out all instructional and non-instructional activities that make up an education system.

BIA uses broadband technology to deliver its ‘Academy-in-a-box’, with pre-programmed curricula transferred to tablet e-readers – ‘teacher-computers’ – that distribute knowledge and information to pupils. This represents a business strategy for drastically reducing operating costs and benefiting from economies of scale by employing unqualified teachers and paying them severely low wages. EI’s research revealed that up to nine out of ten BIA teachers are unlicensed, in direct contravention of Uganda’s Education Act (2008).

In addition, the physical structures of Bridge Academies are below par, with reports of “poor hygiene and sanitation” in school buildings which often do not meet the Basic Requirements and Minimum Standards established by the Ministry of Education.

BIA fails in its mission to provide ‘affordable’ education for all children in Uganda. Children of low class cannot afford to pay anything for education, much less BIA fees, according to a Ministry official. Families with an average household income have to expend up to 23 – 27% of their earnings just to send one child to a Bridge school for one year. Indeed, the BIA school dropout rate ranges from 10%-60%.

Education International’s General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, said: ”We call on the Government of Uganda to remain steadfast in demanding that Bridge International Academies operate in accordance with Ugandan legislative and regulatory requirements. Every child deserves to be taught by a qualified teacher delivering an engaging curriculum in safe schools conducive to good teaching and learning.”

Download here the report: SCHOOLING THE POOR PROFITABLY: the innovations and deprivations of Bridge International Academies in Uganda by Riep, C. & Machacek, M. (2016)

Media Contact:

Angelo Gavrielatos (Project Director, Education International): +61488012045
angelo.gavrielatos@ei-ie.org.au