Education Week is traditionally designated for the third week of October and is typically sponsored by the education partners. However, this year you won’t see any government newspaper advertisements in celebration of Education Week (October 16-22) because of the upcoming provincial election. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take this opportunity to celebrate the importance of publicly funded education in our province. Now, during election time more than ever, we need to highlight the vital role that our education system plays in Saskatchewan.
During this week, schools are holding their own activities to celebrate the importance of education in our province. Students are engaged in various projects in honour of this week. Though valuable activities, valuing education requires much more than the designation of a week. It requires a real commitment by our government leaders.
Investment in education has increased over the last few years but the focus of funding has been primarily on infrastructure. It is important to ensure the safety, learning and working conditions of students and teachers; however, as one teacher so eloquently pointed out at the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation Political Town Hall Forum last week, there needs to be a greater focus on the people in the buildings. This statement speaks directly to the importance of education as a public good and a human right.
In other words, valuing education means providing the supports (financial, facilities, staffing, teaching and learning resources) necessary to meet individual student needs. The needs of Saskatchewan students are changing. The growing diversity of our classrooms creates many opportunities and challenges for both students and teachers. A one-size-fits-all approach to education now more than ever will not serve our students and our province well.
Education is an investment in our future and not just an expense. Saskatchewan’s teachers will continue to advocate on behalf of their students and the education system in our province, because the benefits we receive as a society from education far outweigh the investments being made now for our children’s futures.
During Education Week and for the rest of this election period, I encourage you to ask the political candidates in your area how they and their parties will support our students, our teachers and the publicly funded education system in our province.
Steven Allen is the President of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation.