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What to Expect, in education, from the New Wab Kinew, NDP Government in Manitoba? 


On October 3rd /23, Wab Kinew led the  NDP to victory again for the first time since 2017. This was a big boost for the NDP indicating that BC is not a fluke, AB was a near miss and that the NDP may be the established provincial, progressive party from Tofino to the outskirts of Montreal as Manitoba Liberals were reduced to one seat and face total elimination like BC, AB and SK. First Nations people celebrated alongside the left with Kinew the 1st Indiginous premier in Canada  certainly in modern times

For our purposes, Kinew issued the Speech from the Throne recently, (below) and it indicates his educational direction. First comes a universal nutrition program in all schools. This is a significant reform especially in inner city Winnipeg and some other communities. The NDP will lower class sizes in primary grades, costing about $50 million province wide, a big number for Manitoba.


Much of what Kinew wants to do involves a more universal expansion of spotty existing programs such Indigenous language instructions and school lunch efforts. To keep business sweet he has to do the usual “ more math, more reading, more STEM” routine,Manitoba has ranked dead last of Canadian provinces on international PISA tests for math, science and second last in reading on PISA tests. Poor kids always rank low on these tests Manitoba has by far the most indiginous students and when you combine poverty with intergenerational trauma, as suffered by these kids, you have an enormous educational hill to climb just to approach the Canadian average. 


The Kinew reforms straddle the line between progressive liberal and social democratic reform, which is probably close to the sweet spot of Manitoba and Canadian politics. It's not radical, but it is progressive. It is safe to say that a Kinew NDP government would like to ally with educators. They will be better than the Tories but no government will answer every teacher's prayer. 


Just Get on With Destreaming for Facts Sake


Ontario is supposedly well into a process of destreaming grade 9 but the process seems accompanied by unnecessary hand wringing, if not foot dragging. For those in other provinces, for many years, ON has had the most systematically “streamed” programs throughout its high schools. Grades 9 and 10 were divided into “Academic” level and “Applied” level programs ostensibly at the same level taught differently. In reality, over time the Academic level had become a university bound stream and the Applied level had gravitated towards a trades oriented more dead ended program. Grades 11 and 12 further refined these to 3 streams clearly labeled University, College or Workplace. 


This reactionary and unfair system existed in this form at its most exclusionary level in ON. Surprisingly, the Tory Ford government, responding to race based criticism of streaming centered on Peel County, containing Mississauga and Brampton, ventured where the ON Liberals had feared to tread. It should be noted, the 905 area code of the GTA contains the vast majority of ‘swing seats’ and no party can afford to be labeled as the racist party, in the most multiracial, multicultural city in ON, for failing to respond to a well organized and solidly researched critique of the former system. Although streaming affects far more young people across the province, due to its effect on working class kids, the racial element certainly commands more media attention. 


With all of this in mind, People for Education, a moderate progressive parent oriented research, lobby and information group, issued a survey report indicating than the destreaming effort was somewhat bogged down, based on principals' reporting a malaise due to “lack of funding and resources” like class sizes, PD, curriculum assistance and the like. The CBC picked up the P4E report and produced the article below.


On one level, it's hard not to sympathize with the teachers and principals. Teaching today is demanding, difficult, and increasingly violent. At the same time, these issues must not be allowed to bog down the necessary progressive, reform. Class size is now largely set by the provincial government with little room for boards or schools to maneuver. Smaller classes are always a ‘nice to have’ but not a ‘must have’ requirement for successful reform. Additionally, teaching destreamed classes is not more difficult. Your scribe has done it in TDSBs first destreaming experiment. You largely use the former Academic curriculum, do not divide the class into ability groups which subverts the purpose of destreaming.. For evaluation, lots of oral presentations, tests and exams should be 33% “easy” factual, 33% mid level inferential, and 33% challenging, questions using new analysis.using Bloom’s taxonomy, or similar scales. in order to give all levels of ability a chance to pass if they attend, and work hard while still rewarding high level achievement appropriately.. This is not a ‘dumbing down’ exercise, it is an upgrading situation. 


BC, which has been almost totally destreamed since the 1960s, has the same or better academic results. They still have a few lower level math classes because some students have gaps in their learning that inhibit the learning pyramid building most obvious in math. Is destreaming a silver bullet that solves all education problems? No, but do more students go further in school, in a destreamed system? Yes they do. 


There are always some teachers or principals who are unconvinced by the destreaming perspective or still prefer the system they were familiar with whether teaching Academic or Applied level. My old union, OSSTF and likely the catholic OECTA still contains members who oppose destreaming, notwithstanding the fact that all the research and obvious success in destreamed provinces. They are fewer than in the past, maybe

due to alliances with destraming groups like parents and the OFL. 


Slowly, but relentlessly, we need to destream the entire K12 system. That includes French Immersion, the overrepresentation of the affluent in gifted programs, and the overrepresentation of working class kids in all other special ed. 

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