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Last week, the argument was made that the role and responsibilities of teachers have evolved over the past decades, creating a healthy, responsive classroom environment that lacks only more money and increased staffing to succeed. 

If we refuse to continue to swallow the bitterness of the failing marks we get on departmental examinations year after year, we have to elect the right people. (Almost 80 percent of community children are failing miserably in the 2016-17 Alberta Achievement math and English tests.)

Politicians do their best to give us what we want because that’s how they get elected and re-elected.

So we just have to tell our politicians we want schools that teach children to meet the standards set in the rest of the country if not the world, no matter what the cost. Failure is not an option. That means more money for more teachers and counsellors, even social workers and psychologists.

Convincing a political party to adopt such a platform would be next to impossible. Many people would resist the enormous cost of an education revolution, even if they support it in spirit. Too many of us think inside the economic budget box made in the South.

But in the North, we have no political parties. We have rule by individuals, 22 of them. No left wing or right wing or wing ding ideology to serve. We vote for good government based upon what we have always done –  balance the books, meet payroll for the 4,700 government workers, maintain the roads and water trucks, don’t embarrass us in Ottawa. 

So imagine an election – the next election – if there were 22 people running, one in every riding, committed to building an education system like no other.

In every NWT community, there is at least one if not more champions of education. That’s a  person who has always spoken up for educational values, who’s always involved in the schools, either as a teacher or classroom support, or just helped out wherever they could, year after year.

The GNWT’s Education Hall of Fame has inducted 67 such education champions since 2010. Go have a look: https://www.ece.gov.nt.ca/en/services/education-hall-fame .

If enough education revolutionaries achieve a majority, they can vote themselves into cabinet and choose their education premier. Simple math.

Once they have formed a government, there will be little guesswork involved. The path forward is mapped out in the Skills 4 Success: 4-Year Action Plan 2016-2020, an insightful blueprint drawn by the Dept. Of Education for fixing what’s wrong with our schools. Have a look at that too: (https://www.ece.gov.nt.ca/sites/ece/files/resources/skills_4_success_4-year_action_plan_2016-2020.pdf )

The only problem with that plan was the absence of any dollar figures to make it happen, not even estimates. It’s like a promise to build a road from Wrigley to Tsiigehtchic without attaching either a pricetag, or worse, any funding. No one takes it seriously.

Everyone, except  too many young students,  believes success in school equals success in life. Doesn’t that mean failure in school equals failure in life? It does.

Parents, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters, all these people own the vote. They can choose their education champions, encourage them to run in the 2019 election, and take the education revolution to Yellowknife. 

The horrible Alberta Achievement Test results may not be an accurate measure of the quality of learning in our schools nor define our students. But how wonderful it would be to turn the numbers upside down and report over 80 percent of our students achieving ‘acceptable ‘ results. 

That success would be felt in our economy and lessen the crippling costs of our court systems, jails, social service expenditures and healthcare.

Instead of Finland being the education darling of the world, the NWT school system would be the new standard and may well encourage more professionals to move North for their children’s education rather than Northern professionals sending their kids south.

 

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Bruce Valpy

Bruce Valpy is publisher of Northern News Services Ltd. He can be reached at 1-867-766-8228 or valpy@nnsl.com.