Eric Blake
Eric Blake, Policy & Research Analyst
 

Earlier this year, the provincial government launched a comprehensive review of our education system. Led by the Hon. Myra Freeman, the Minister’s Panel on Education is charged with examining all aspects of education in Nova Scotia. Since education formed a significant part of our 2013-2018 Strategic Plan, we drafted a submission to the Panel to get the business community’s views on record. While this is a relatively new issue for us, our conversations with members over the past year have made it clear that our businesses understand that a competitive business environment is about more than tax rates.

Without a top-quality education system, our members would find it difficult to grow and thrive. If we did not have enough skilled workers, we would struggle to attract new companies to the region. If you think long-term, it is clear that improving our education system is closely related with creating a more successful province. Given the importance of this task, we will be watching the outcomes of this review closely.  Overall, we are looking for this Panel to:

  • System Structure
    • Encourage innovation by providing schools and teachers with more freedom to decide how they will teach their students.
    • Expand avenues for information sharing and collaboration in and between schools, as well as setting clear guidelines for what students are expected to achieve.
    • Allow students to provide feedback on their teachers and use it as part of the professional development process as has become common in universities.
  • Curriculum
    • Enhance the curriculum to provide a strong focus on fundamental skills in math and science.
    • Introduce entrepreneurship education to help students become adaptable and innovative.
  • Expenditure
    • Focus on ensuring that our existing education funds are being spent in an effective and innovative manner.
    • Reduce the achievement gap between students from different socio-economic backgrounds by ensuring that all schools have an equitable number of staff, infrastructure, and financial resources.
    • Review hiring and certification practices to make sure that the best teachers available make it into the school system.

In the end, we need an education system that places continuous improvement at its core. The last comprehensive review of P-12 education was 25 years ago, a time when VHS and walkmans were still popular.  We need a system that can keep up with change, not respond to it decades after the fact. As a province, we need to approach this review as the just the beginning. Building a stronger education system will not be an easy or quick endeavor, but it is one that we feels is fundamentally important to our province’s future.

Eric Blake is the Policy and Research Analyst for the Halifax Chamber of Commerce. His responsibilities include providing supporting research for the Chamber’s policy positions; drafting its submissions to government; and coordinating the Chamber’s two Task Forces and its Energy Committee.  Eric studied International Relations and Economics at Mount Allison University before completing a Masters of Public Administration at Queen’s University.  He also spent a year traveling New Zealand with his now-wife and came back with a love of meat pies and Kiwis (the animal). He can be reached at (902) 481-1351 or eric@halifaxchamber.com.