Facing Forward Exclusive with Honorable George Abbott Minister Of Education
TAN : Education is vital to our future economic and social development, enabling growth in a strong democracy. How would you describe B.C.’s position on this key issue?
Education is vital to our province’s economy and social development and is the backbone and foundation of how we define ourselves. Our educational backgrounds help us to succeed each day and also help determine what paths we choose to follow as we live our lives.
Every young student needs to have the best opportunities to succeed.
It takes a commitment by parents, educators and government to support students, whether they are in kindergarten or grade 12.
It’s our priority as a provincial government to protect education in B.C. The strength of our commitment is illustrated by the 28 per cent increase in the overall budget, from $4.1 billion in 2000-01 to $5.2 billion in 2011-12. Funding for this year supports approximately 540,000 students in 60 school districts province-wide.
TAN : The cost for student education is becoming more costly each year. Are there plans to address this?
Under the School Act every child from five-years old on up in B.C. is entitled to a free public education if the child and his or her parent or guardian is a B.C. resident.
Families on income assistance with children aged five-to-11 who are enrolled in school full-time receive $84 per child to help with school supplies. For families with 12-to-18-year-olds, that figure increases to $116. In addition, while boards of education have limited ability to charge fees, they must ensure that they have policies in place to facilitate participation by students who would otherwise be excluded from a class or program because of financial hardship.
And we have committed $43 million for the expansion of our popular free StrongStart BC programs for pre-kindergarten children and their parents. As of this September we have 326 programs supporting families in 385 communities across the province.
TAN : Dedicated teachers nourish our present education system. What plans are in place for strengthening future growth and development in teachers?
Teachers are at the very heart of our education system.
Research shows the effect of the teacher is the single most important factor in how a student progresses. We are committed to helping improve teacher quality and making investments to help good teachers become great.
We want to help identify opportunities for our teachers to develop professionally, matching those opportunities to where they are in their teaching careers.
And we plan to ensure the millions of dollars that taxpayers contribute to the professional development of teachers every year is used in the best possible way to support them.
Ultimately, we believe the results will be better teachers providing their very best for our students, their parents, and B.C. families.
TAN : Are students in B.C. receiving appropriate recognition and value?
B.C.’s students rank among the best in the world, and they are continually recognized for their achievements.
According to the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment, an international test of 15-year-olds, B.C. students consistently score well among OECD countries and our results remain relatively stable. And in the most recent international assessment of Grade 4 and Grade 8 students, B.C. students performed above the international average in Grade 4 science, Grade 8 mathematics and Grade 8 science.
Our work to improve our education system is ongoing. We are taking action to increase parental involvement in B.C. schools because we know that students do better in school when their parents are involved in their education.
By focusing on achievement, literacy, safe and healthy schools and early learning, B.C. is working to move from an educational system that is internationally recognized as very good to one that is great.
We absolutely must find new approaches to continue that trend. That’s why our personalized learning initiative will provide students with many unique and innovative opportunities for them to study, learn and achieve their best.
And we believe this new initiative will ensure that students in B.C. remain among the very best in the world.
TAN : What message would you like to convey to students at the start of the new school term?
I want to welcome every B.C. student back to school. For many students, this will be the year they move up to elementary school, to middle school or high school. They’ll be facing new challenges and that can feel scary and exciting at the same time.
I will be out visiting schools again this year to talk to you and your teachers and engage other British Columbians on ideas to improve education in this province. As the world continues to change around us, we must do whatever we can to move to a system that better meets the needs of you, and your parents and teachers in the 21st Century.
I believe it is our responsibility to look for the potential in every student, and to nurture, encourage and equip them to achieve. When our students arrive at school, I’m sure we will be looking beyond where they are now to imagine the wonderful possibilities for their future.
Welcome back to all of you.
George Abbott was appointed Minister of Education on March 14, 2011. First elected as MLA in 1996 to represent the riding of Shuswap, George was re-elected for a fourth time in 2009.
George has previously served as Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, Minister of Health, Minister of Community, Aboriginal and Women’s Services and Minister of Sustainable Resource Management.
Before his election to the Legislative Assembly, George was a political science instructor at Okanagan University College.