Advance View: Public schools keep changing

With the ongoing labour dispute paralysing the B.C. public school system, it’s no wonder that there’s been a lot of interest in private schools.

Education is now vastly more complicated than it was in the 1930s, when B.C. schools tended to concentrate on the three Rs, when the vast majority of students would never see post-secondary education as an option, and when one-room schoolhouses were still common.

Now a majority of students will go to university or to a technical or trade school. Computers are as important to mechanics and nurses as they are to engineers. Literacy and numeracy are more vital than ever, but to those basic skills we have added a vast range of social issues we expect teachers to address, from physical fitness to life skills to social awareness.

A society used to choice and seeing more and more options for the future of its next generation has demanded more choice from its schools. To a great degree, the province and school districts have provided that.

An article in Sunday’s Vancouver Province sang the praises of private schools – smaller class sizes, specialized programs, higher test scores. Yet it capped that coverage with a photo from the Langley Fine Arts School – a public school.

Choice schools, dedicated to everything from the International Baccalaureate program to French immersion, from athletics to performance to the fine arts, have become a feature of the landscape. And these schools are open to every student who can meet their requirements, regardless of their parents’ ability to pay.

A danger of praising private schools too highly is that parents may not even try to find out what is available in the public system. Another danger is that, if too many of our political elites enroll their children in private programs, what incentive do they have to add more choices and support to the public schools?

 

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