Manitoba announces second attempt to overhaul the education system

The Manitoba Government outlined broad strokes Wednesday of its second attempt to overhaul the education system.

Upon taking office late last year, Premier Heather Stefanson scrapped Bill 64, the original plan, following strong opposition to the proposed reforms. The measure that drew the most criticism was a plan to eliminate elected school boards.

“We heard loud and clear from Manitobans that they didn’t want us to change the governance structure within the Manitoba K-12 system,” Manitoba’s Education Minister Wayne Ewasko said Wednesday.

Instead the province says its new Manitoba Education Action Plan, which was released on Wednesday, will not even consolidate school boards.

The report says the five-year action plan will focus on four pillars: high-quality learning, student engagement and well-being, teaching and leadership, and responsive systems. 

“In alignment with current research and other Canadian jurisdictions, Manitoba will shift to a global competency approach with literacy and numeracy at its core. It will support relevant, high-quality learning for all,” states the report.

A new funding model is proposed but the province isn’t yet saying what it will look like as work by a review team is underway. Right now the province funds the system directly in conjunction with school boards which raise money through taxation. The promise is to make the new model more fair and equitable.

The province lists a number of measures and goals, with some underway and others to be implemented over the coming years.

To boost and measure student performance the province is looking at curriculum based assessments for early, middle, and grade 10 years, the addition of literacy and numeracy coaches, and a permanent remote learning strategy, including an online high school.

The plan also includes a pledge to review exclusionary policies which could involve reducing or phasing out suspensions and expulsions with safety concern exceptions. There is also a promise to curb absenteeism with a new provincial attendance policy, as well as a pledge to change report cards, by making them more inclusive.

There is a large focus on improving the school experience for Indigenous students, including the creation of an Indigenous Education Framework. There is a promise to enhance content on residential schools and treaties in the curriculum, mandate principals take concrete steps to improve achievements for Indigenous students, and better recruit and retain teachers for northern and rural communities.

Another highlight calls for the creation of a regulatory body, though Ewasko said right now the province is not moving forward with a teachers college.

More to come.

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