address To Council
Minister emphasizes respect for teachers
Minister of Education Kathleen Wynne said that it is important for the government to “continue to treat Ontario teachers with the high level of respect and admiration they deserve.”
The Minister was addressing the inaugural meeting of the College's fourth governing Council on November 9, 2006.
“The truly remarkable teachers we have in this province need to feel they are respected,” she said.
Wynne said that although legislation requires that the Minister of Education and the Council meet once a year, she hoped for “frequent conversations” in the months ahead.
Speaking of Bill 52 – the Learning to 18 initiative, about which the College had expressed concerns – the Minister promised that, if passed, the new legislation would in no way undermine public education.
In its submission to the Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly, Council had expressed concern that “the proposed legislation leaves open the possibility for a wide range of activities [to be] provided by individuals who are not College members [and] do not hold teaching qualifications or have the skills and knowledge to assess students' abilities, learning styles or progress, or to objectively assess the effectiveness of their own program.”
In her address to Council the Minister said, “We've heard teachers' concerns about defending the integrity of the secondary school diploma.” She promised, “Qualified teachers will remain the backbone of our system. Principals will be issuing secondary school diplomas and credits and we'll ensure that the system remains in public hands and focuses on the public good.”
In response to a concern expressed by a Council member that the Learning to 18 initiative will allow students to earn up to four credits that will not be delivered by certified teachers, the Minister said that the issue had to be put in context, adding that there would be protections in place such as Ministry oversight and the involvement of teachers and schools.
She emphasized that it was qualified teachers who were likely to be the source of ideas about alternative opportunities for learning that would encourage students to stay in school and graduate.
Among the issues that the government has addressed as part of its commitment to showing respect for teachers, said the Minister, were the recent changes to College governance in which six more elected positions were added to Council.
She mentioned the revised ethical and practice standards that have been developed and said, “I know you'll do an excellent job of sharing these standards with the public over the coming months. I think it's very important to that respect for publicly funded education that those standards get communicated and people understand what the role of the College is and the standards to which teachers are held.”
The Minister also promised further discussions about peer review for principals and vice-principals. Council does not support peer review with regard to the disciplinary process since panels composed of elected and appointed Council members are able to fairly judge issues of professional conduct for all members of the College. The Minister expressed confidence that a resolution to the issue can be found.
The Minister said, “It's important to recognize that we have made a really good start on the road to transforming education in Ontario.”
She talked about improvement to class sizes, especially at the elementary level, the improvement in relations with teachers that has reduced discord, better test scores for Grades 3 and 6, and rising graduation rates.
Wynne also highlighted the initiative to introduce character education and two new grants programs helping parents to become more engaged in their children's education.
“There is hard research that demonstrates that if parents are involved, students will do better. It's no small thing that government has made a significant financial investment in trying to facilitate that process.”