Teachers should be commended for their work

Re: Teacher’s strike hurts kids, Letters (Jan. 18)

Last week, another unsubstantiated argument was published in a letter to the editor. The author claims that “kids are the ones who are suffering” and to claim otherwise is “absurd.” The author does not, however, explain how students are being harmed.

All across B.C., teachers are teaching and students are learning. Extra-curricular activities such as basketball tournaments continue. Parents are not receiving formal report cards, but teachers and parents are communicating regarding student progress.

The author then suggests that teachers should be held accountable for the low literacy rate of Canadian adults. He correctly states that according to Statistics Canada, 42 percent of adults have low literacy rates; meaning they score below three on a scale of 1-5 on the International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey (IALSS).

Many factors affect literacy rates. Some are obvious, such as innate ability and parental encouragement of reading. Others require more research.

According to Statistics Canada, over 50 per cent of immigrants whose first language is not English have low literacy skills, and 40 per cent of seniors do not have a high school diploma. These statistics reflect the overall lower education level of older Canadians, and the lack of  English language training opportunities for immigrants.

A more accurate indicator of the performance of our education system is the Canadian student literacy rate.  In 2002, 84 per cent of 13-year-old students scored at or above the expected level in writing achievement; and in 2006 71 per cent of 15-year-olds met or exceeded expectations in reading proficiency (Statistics Canada).

In addition, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Canada’s student literacy rate is second only to Finland. The U.S. ranks 15.

As for B.C., a 2006 study by Statistics Canada shows that our students scored an average 528 on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) reading test, with only Alberta (535) and Ontario (536) scoring slightly higher.

Ten years ago, the BC Liberal government illegally stripped contract language that protected the learning conditions of students as well as the working conditions of teachers. Class size limits on the total number of students, as well as the number of special needs students, were removed. Now, it is not unusual to have six, seven, eight or more special needs students in our already over-crowded classrooms.

In addition, the BC Liberals have spent 10 years and countless taxpayer dollars defending their actions, finally losing to the BC Teachers’ Federation at the BC Supreme Court.

Teachers should be commended for the work they do. It is not the teachers’ strike that is hurting kids. It is the irresponsible actions of the BC Liberals.

Lynne Marvell

President, Fraser-Cascade Teachers’ Association