Manitoba Daily

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The Manitoba government held focus groups to discuss planned educational reforms

On planned education reform, the Manitoba government held focus groups.

Key Takeaways:

  • A public opinion research firm told the Manitoba government shortly before dropping its school reform plans the previous year that people were sceptical of the measures.
  • The research was based on focus group sessions done on behalf of the government about measures made by former premier Brian Pallister a year ago.

According to newly disclosed papers, the Manitoba government was advised by a public opinion research firm soon before scrapping its school reform plans last year that people were sceptical of the proposals.

According to a report by Probe Research Inc., the government’s prior adjustments in health care had a detrimental impact on people’s opinions.

“When participants were questioned how confident they are that the provincial government (will) implement beneficial changes to education, their level of confidence was comparatively low — but not rock bottom,” according to the report, which was completed in August and released later on the govt’s proactive disclosure website.

Also read: After a spring storm, Dauphin is working to restore power.

“While changes to health care and the provincial government’s overall performance during the pandemic have tainted their views of education reform, some participants have some faith in the government to make changes that would benefit kids, educators, and Manitobans.”

The study was based on focus group sessions Probe conducted on behalf of the government about measures proposed a year ago by former premier Brian Pallister.

The recommendations ranged from student assessments to curriculum, but the plan to abolish all elected English-language school boards and replace them with a provincial education authority drew the most attention.

The initiative was slammed by teachers and others in the education field. Lawn signs opposing it were distributed by the teachers’ union and opposition parties. Hundreds of individuals have signed up to speak out against the plans at upcoming public hearings.

Focus groups comprising solely parents were included in a previous Probe report dated March 2021. They indicated that wiping out elected boards would be met with little opposition.

“Parents were mainly unconcerned with school trustees, even upset by them, and were unconcerned about the elimination of elected trustees,” according to the March report.

On planned education reform, the Manitoba government held focus groups.
On planned education reform, the Manitoba government held focus groups. Image from CBC News

However, by the time of its August report, Probe had discovered a distinct public perception.

“For many participants, seeing… banners on lawns or hearing from educators they know has colored their views on these (planned education) reforms,” the survey states.

“Overall, participants hoped that education modernization would result in additional resources for Manitoba schools, emphasizing improving learning outcomes for marginalized and low-income kids.”

“At the same time, several participants expressed worry that a centralized education authority would be unresponsive to local concerns and that educational reforms would result in fewer resources in the classroom.”

In the same month, Heather Stefanson launched her candidacy for the Progressive Conservative leadership to succeed Pallister, who was retiring. Stefanson, who is currently the premier, stated during her campaign launch that she would defeat the bill proposing the modifications. It was later taken down.

The government revealed new ideas for education reform last week, but no changes to school boards were made.

Source: CTV News

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