As premier, I read with interest the recent letter to the editor, signed by five individuals (Ken Taylor, Fred Smith, Don Roberts, Piers Macdonald and Shakir Alwarid). The letter appears to target myself, the education minister and deputy minister with a number of criticisms but falls short when it comes to solutions. Nor does the letter demonstrate any real knowledge of how the education system currently works.
I would like to thank the writers, though, for noting that the various partners in education have become so strong and empowered in recent years. We are also proud that this has taken place during our current and past two mandates.
Of course, our government acknowledges there will always be some room for improvement, as there was years ago, when these five individuals were involved as teachers, principals, Education Department officials, a Liberal Party leader, a Liberal (and then Independent) MLA and an NDP premier. No situation is ever perfect, nor was it when these fine folks were directly involved.
That said, our government is one of the most accessible governments in Canada, always willing to meet with and listen to Yukoners with new creative ideas for improvement.
Sadly, the letter appears bereft of such ideas. Instead, it makes vague statements about “troubling questions” and a “closed” system. The writers note consultations that took place in the ‘80s, followed by a new Education Act in 1990, and describe in rosy terms the following years. They then assert that things just don’t “feel as good anymore.”
If that’s true for them, I’m sorry to hear it, but I believe that the work of the current and previous Yukon Party governments, together with our partners in education, have done much to enhance and improve educational and training opportunities and experiences in Yukon.
The writers urge “negative naysayers to seriously consider the importance of the task at hand.” I fear the writers may have inadvertently fallen into this category themselves. Their overall message seems to be that while they were involved in education or in politics, things were great, and now that they’re not, things are awful.
Our government, Yukon Education and our partners in education continue to work hard in positive ways to make improvements that have real benefits for Yukoners. But it’s also important to remember what has been accomplished. Our job is to build on our success, not to diminish what has been done.
So I’m pleased to give some examples of what has been working well in our education system, thanks to the hard work of all involved. Our vision, Success for Each Learner, uses technology, experiential education, First Nations traditions and many other tools to assist our students in achieving successful learning outcomes.
One community-led initiative is the Old Crow Experiential Education Project and Culture Camp, a unique partnership between the Vuntut Gwitchin Government and Yukon Education. It gives students the opportunity to develop their Gwich’in language, culture and traditional land-based skills, while achieving learning outcomes in literacy, numeracy, history and science.
Another key priority is to use technology to assist students in all parts of the territory. In Dawson City and Teslin, along with Old Crow, secondary school programs have been established providing students with an alternative learning path to complete high school. The Watson Lake Secondary School has successfully implemented a blended learning approach combining technology and teacher expertise to assist students who are working through online curricula. The leadership shown by the school and our government is making education more responsive to the individual needs of Watson Lake students.
Yukon Education has been working with the Tr’ondek Hwech’in government to develop an alternative programming model to support vulnerable learners, create a made-in-Yukon unit on residential schools to be taught in Social Studies 10, and accredit a Dawson City culture camp.
Our government provides tremendous support for post-secondary education, including the Yukon Grant, the recently-enhanced Yukon Excellence Award Program, training for older workers and the Northern Institute of Social Justice at Yukon College. We have opened the Centre for Northern Innovation in Mining – Yukon College’s one-stop, state-of-the-art trades training facility and have begun developing the first made-in-Yukon degree and post-degree programs in partnership with Yukon College. This is a major step on the pathway to our college becoming a university.
Collaboration is key to the success of all these initiatives. Working with communities, First Nations and stakeholders, we’re making great strides that are yielding results.
In conclusion, I want to take this opportunity to recognize teachers, students, school councils, the Commission scolaire francophone du Yukon, parents and families, governments, leaders, community organizations and volunteers who contribute to life-long learning for Yukon students of all ages.
Darrell Pasloski is
premier of the Yukon