Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

Education system 'in crisis' despite smaller class sizes

The provincial government is trying to use a report on class sizes to mask a crisis in the education system, says the head of the local teachers' association.

A report released today by the Ministry of Education, touts how average class sizes in B.C. public schools are smaller now than they were before the government introduced class size legislation four years ago.

"When the first class size report was released in 2005-06, there were 9,253 classes with more than 30 students. Today, that number has decreased by more than 65 per cent to 3,229," reads the accompanying press release.

But you can count the president of the Central Okanagan Teachers' Association, Alice Rees, among those who are unimpressed.

"Averages, always, are the great lie," she said.

For one thing, the averages don't hold across all classes and across all districts. In fact, here in the Central Okanagan, the average class size for Grades 4 to 12 are slightly higher than the provincial average, while the size of Kindergarten classes here are slightly lower.

For another, averages don't say anything about what actually goes on inside the classroom.

According to Rees, the law regulating class sizes and composition says that ideally, classes should have no more than three students in them who have been identified as needing special assistance. "These are kids who have a legal right to additional support within a regular classroom."

In 2009, the Central Okanagan had 370 classes with four or more designated special needs students in them, up from 307 classes in 2007. "I'm aware of several classrooms with six," said Rees. "The reality is this becomes a teaching management and sharing issue."

As well, most classes also have students in them with increased or different needs but who have not officially been identified as such and so do not qualify for extra help. "Who will be there for the kid who isn't special, isn't designated, but needs the additional support?" said Rees.

And while the government makes a big deal out of how the amount of dollars spent on education has never been higher, the rate of funding increases has not kept pace with rising costs. Over the last two years, the Central Okanagan Board of Education has had to make $7.4 million worth of cuts from its $170 million budget and could be forced to cut $6 million more next year.

"In this district our librarian support has been cut back dramatically, our learning assistance teachers are cut, our counsellors are cut and our other support networks are in dire danger of being gone next year," said Rees.

And if things don't change soon, she added, B.C.'s historically excellent education system will be in danger of crumbling.

"You have a system that is trying to meet the expectations of society, and those are very high," she said. "And I would say at this moment it is one of the best systems in the world, but it is in crisis."

Adrian Nieoczym reports for where a version of this story first appeared.

Find more in:

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus