For the past couple of decades here in Ontario, Canada, our Public School Boards have been lauding the value of integrated learning. My experience as a Special Education teacher was that this movement became a cash grab for the Boards themselves since they had complete discretion over Spec Ed funding.
The situation here at home, trying to get appropriate funding for struggling students, became so frustrating that I threw in the towel and left for China.
Three years later, I returned to Canada and have been providing extremely cheap tutoring for Learning Disabled students who receive very little support within the education system. My laments about the reality of students who need no more than genuine "differentiated instruction" to feel better about themselves have fallen on deaf ears locally.
Now I discover that our public Boards have been providing the International Baccalaureate Program to a select few. Our local Board has used its Spec Ed budget (and MY tax money!!!) to provide an elite private program to a select few. I call this "Academic Apartheid" and consider it unconscionable!
(Those who are experiencing frustration get the "booby prize" in the form of a new Mental Health initiative...)
Since leaving China, I have, at the request of its editors, been contributing a number of teaching techniques and insights to the Beijing Kids Magazine Forum. (as "Miss Ann" on: www.beijing-kids.com/forum). I have a considerable following. A few of my articles have had over 10,000 hits; one over 20,000 hits.
Once the funding of the IB Program came to light, I have included that inequity (iniquity?) in my articles. Seems I have become controversial.
Here is an article that had had over 7000 hits before I removed it to edit for a grammar point. They did not repost.
The Empire’s New Clothes – Education 2014
After teaching in three International Schools and two smaller “English” schools in China (teaching Nationalist Chinese children), I have finally retired to tutor back home in Canada (only because age-discrimination seems to be an acceptable worldwide phenomenon).
In total I have clocked fifty years at all grade levels from K-12 in six distinct cultures, as both regular class teacher and as Learning Specialist.
Lately I’ve been mulling over the similarities in the delivery of education in China and Ontario.
As I struggle to claim more support for EVERY child in our Ontario public education system, I come to the somewhat bitter realization that things have changed here at home. Not for the better. Throughout my early career in elementary schools here and in Jamaica (I’m talking late ‘60s and ‘70s) I always believed that my superiors had the best interests of all students at heart. It was not a blind faith; I distinctly remember Superintendents and Principals who visited and bent to listen to individual children, to ask about their progress and to discuss possible modifications. One could forgive the occasional bad breath and dandruff because the interests of the students were clearly at heart.
This illusion was first shattered in an English High School in Hull, Quebec, and later – as one could anticipate – at a small profit-driven English School in Beijing.
Today, here in Ontario, I no longer cling to any such illusions. Our Education System has become a huge Empire that makes its decisions far out of reach of both parents and teachers. Teachers are simply employees and have no voice; they take orders.
Strange. That’s the way things run in China. Strange, because the West sits with its morally superior attitude, to pass judgment…
Our Education Empire here is now decked out in the latest technological gadgets, shouting about innovation, paying no heed to the fact that student performance has made no gains at all from all those expensive bells and whistles of the last decade. Could it be that all this entertaining technology backfires and actually kills innovation?
Ontario performance in Math is abysmal, and continues to spiral downward. American results are worse than our own in Canada, but yet we continue to follow the lead from that direction. (If one cannot handle arithmetic, one should not even attempt mathematics.)
So, what on earth are we bragging about?
We cannot even continue to proclaim the superior Mental Health our system promotes. Our Education Ministry has just announced a Mental Health initiative. We have depression, substance abuse, and suicides.
Wait. Isn’t it Asia that is driving its students too hard, resulting in emotional problems for many? What is it that we are doing here in the WEST that drives students to despair? (I would personally suggest that one error we have made is UNSUPPORTED intergration – one could argue that has freed up funding for elitist programming for “the more deserving”. But that’s just my opinion, based on tutoring dyslexic children who now have to pay for external support, or fail. Another is that we fail to provide a solid grounding in basic skills. My Grade 6 student arrived with a report stating she needs to “improve her grammar”. No one had ever taught her grammar. Our curricula here are packed with “higher-level” thinking skills – at the expense of having a good grasp of critical basic skills.)
I almost chuckle at our School Board praising itself for the construction of a fancy new K-12 facility. This smacks so much of International Schools and their elaborate trappings. Newly arrived ex-pat parents in Suzhou, China, were absolutely blown away by the impressive environment. But it was what went on inside that really mattered.
Window-dressing is where it’s at. High salaries for Board executives, burgeoning bureaucracies, mindless increases in teacher responsibility, and the over-riding conviction that technology is panacea for “Twenty-First Century Education”. From where I sit, I envision twenty-first century adults unable to make change when the power goes out, and unable to express an idea clearly – whether on paper or via the internet.
As a private Canadian citizen, I am as powerless here, to impact the system, as I was in China. Is there a difference?
Recently I have detected rumblings among Canadian parents as they begin to realize how seriously they have been duped by bungling bureaucrats and their claims about “World Class” curricula. The fact that Kumon is never far removed from those “World Class” curricula, has gone unnoticed. How long before the naked failure of this North American system is totally exposed?
The one bright hope I see locally is the Catholic Board, which continues to champion the welfare and learning of EVERY child. Even that may be temporary; our Ontario Ministry is calling on all Boards to provide specialized support for the “gifted”. How long will the Catholics be able to expound the “giftedness” within each of us? I am not Catholic, but I laud them, and pray they can hold out…