In 2011, George Abbott became the first Education Minister to speak at a teachers’ convention after BC Liberals were elected ten years before. Abbott said that many things would divide teachers and his ministry in the weeks and months ahead.
He should have said, “in the years ahead.”
Times Colonist writer Les Leyne reported Minister Abbott listened to audience members after his speech. He heard:
…about how unsupported teachers are in dealing with special needs kids, sometimes violent, semi-literate, emotionally fragile, suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome problem children who populate many classes in increasing numbers.
About all he could do was nod in sympathy.
The Minister’s response to statements that schools had too few resources to deal with special needs children was a sympathetic nod. Even that was insincere.
In 2011, BC was nine years into a legal dispute with educators. It lasted five more years until a victory by teachers in a 2016 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada.
At its core, the fight was about class size and composition. Government had not been prepared to fund education for disadvantaged children appropriately. That minimized their chances of becoming contributing citizens but it also reduced attention paid by teachers to other students. Everyone affected by the system was a net loser.
Improving classroom conditions costs taxpayers more but society benefits in the long run.
Apart from the ethical obligation to serve all students, nations with the most effective systems of education are the countries where citizens have the highest levels of life satisfaction.
That is not coincidence. One is connected to the other.