Bill 64: The Education Modernization Act, Or Is It?
Western Canada

Bill 64: The Education Modernization Act, Or Is It?

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Bill 64 proposes the elimination of democratically elected school boards.

Op-ed By: Uche Nwankwo (PhD)

Bill 64 is designated as ‘The Education Modernization Act’. Is anyone averse to modernization? Are those Manitobans who continue to adorn their lawns with signs criticizing Bill 64 ardent believers of the doxological creed “As it was in the beginning, so shall it be, world without end?” Or are the other stakeholders who are protesting this Bill being distraught and critical because their livelihood and professional pride are on the line?

As a student of innovation adoption theory, I advocate for innovativeness because either in product or service-based organizations, the ability to embrace dynamic innovativeness or ‘modernization’ is an essential ingredient for enjoying the continued patronage of the client for any product or service.

Since 2015, I have been organizing “training of the trainer” workshop for university lecturers because of my firm principle that educators are service providers and therefore they must modernize their pedagogical dynamics, teaching philosophy, teachable point of view (TPOV), innovative classroom conducts and proper student-teacher relationship, all targeting academic excellence and best practices. 

I am therefore a strong fan of constant modernization or innovativeness in the educational service industry. I will not hesitate to support policies that can significantly improve service delivery in the classroom, student-lecturer relationship, and sustainable relationship with the entire stakeholders in the Manitoba education community.

But we are visibly cognizant of the fact that every government policy can result in unintended consequences. Intuitively, when the government is focused on improving resource efficiency, equity in many cases, is sacrificed. These are the basic lessons we learn in rudimentary economics classes. 

I am not completely discarding every part of the Bill. Some critics of Bill 64 are not in denial that the education system requires modernization or innovativeness. Prior to the crafting of Bill 64, various stakeholders made pertinent recommendations based on what they envisage would be the best for the education system in Manitoba. For instance, the Bill read in parts: “Local participation in the public education system will allow parents to have more opportunity to be active partners in their children’s education”.

As a lover of action research, I advocate a participatory approach to problem solutions. Like many other parents, I would like to be an “active partner” in my children’s education. I would also like to see that those issues affecting Indigenous students and students from the visible minority are incorporated in the modernization process. 

In November 2020, AfriCans in Winnipeg South Inc. contacted the Minister of Education. We proposed a town hall meeting specifically to discuss issues affecting Indigenous students and the visible minority. The goal of that town hall meeting was to engage the education minister in discussions around the decolonization of the education system, adopting inclusiveness, multiculturalism in curriculum design, implementation, and classroom engagement. Though we held meetings with two staff members from the education minister’s office, the town hall meeting was not actualized.

Several non-partisan commentators have analyzed this Bill and came to an evidence-based conclusion that it will further widen the inequality gap in our economy. Bill 64 if implemented, will adversely affect Indigenous students, students with health issues and students from visible minorities and poorer households. 

The other aspect of abandoning the democratic process of electing School Board members in preference to government-based appointments is another source of concern with respect to this Bill. Denying Manitobans the democratic process of electing those who serve as School Board members and replacing the board with government-appointed members implies that those so appointed, would pledge allegiance to the ruling government that appointed them. 

I wish that the government can listen to the voices of reason, engage more with all the stakeholders, and have a critical evaluation of how this bill will affect some demographics of the province. After all, it is still possible to make some groups better off without making any groups worst off.

Image source https://twitter.com/mbteachers

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