Don’t ignore the fundamentals of education

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Students today have so many opportunities. In Island schools there is a wide selection of courses, especially at the high school level.

There are so many more subjects available to study than a generation or two ago.

There’s nothing wrong with offering variety to students in order to capture their interests. However, if the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic are being compromised, that is wrong.

It would appear the basics of math, reading, and science are not being taught or learned in P.E.I. schools as thoroughly as they should be or as thoroughly as they are in other provinces.

This week a nursing school instructor pointed out that an alarming number of her nursing students fail math competency exams. A UPEI professor warned that the state of mathematics in this province has reached a crisis point.

That’s pretty strong language, but having our students on the bottom of national test scores and having students enter post-secondary education without basic math skills is a serious problem.

P.E.I. junior high students scored last in the country in the 2013 PISA (Programme for International Students Assessment) results for coming in below the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and

Development) average in the three areas of testing – reading, science and math.

All provinces, with the exception of P.E.I., were at or above the OECD average in all three areas.

Island students are scoring progressively lower on these PISA tests. Our 15-year-olds went from performing above average in reading in 2000 to below average in 2012. P.E.I. students had above average scores in science in 2006 and below average scores in last year’s tests.

These three areas – math, reading and science – should be the focus of our education system. Students need a solid foundation – a core set of knowledge and skills upon which further learning can be built.

In a few years these students will be running our businesses, taking care of us when we’re sick, and teaching our kids. If they have not grasped the basics of math and language arts, doing their jobs well and succeeding in any field may be difficult.

So how do we fix it? There must be a way – other provinces are managing.

Students in Quebec performed among the top jurisdictions in the PISA math tests while British Columbia students did very well in science. Perhaps we could find out what they’re doing right.

That UPEI professor warning about the crisis in math also had solid suggestions for training teachers to help students in the earlier grades to master math concepts. Perhaps our minister of Education should be consulting with people like her.

Organizations: OECD, Economic Co

Geographic location: 2012. P.E.I., Quebec, British Columbia

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