by STAFF, Journal Pioneer (Summerside, Prince Edward Island)
The Province of P.E.I. has recently been criticized for not providing information for a report card on the Atlantic region’s high schools.
In an open letter to Premier Pat Binns, the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies suggests P.E.I. doesn’t know a lot about its schools and has tried to frustrate the organization’s efforts to get information for a recent study.
AIMS charges, “the P.E.I. government knows virtually nothing about what goes on in the province’s own high schools.
Additionally, education officials were complacent about this absence of information vital to ensuring that each student gets the very best quality education possible.”
Education Minister Chester Gillan responded that the province does support research that helps improve education. He also noted it participates in national and international assessments.
He has argued the province didn’t have the data “readily available” for the AIMS study and that he doesn’t support the ranking of local high schools.
A release from the minister further characterized the AIMS study as flawed.
Undoubtedly, there are benefits to having information on where the education system could improve.
But in recent years, it seems studies have been increasingly spewing out data and numbers on everything from our hospitals to our universities.
The appetite for “good information” has grown, with the ideals of providing the public the facts on where to get the best services and governments tools to find out what’s working and what’s not.
Despite this trend, it’s important also to consider how helpful the information will be and how it will get used.
In the case of the AIMS study, Gillan rightly points out ranking high schools poses problems.
Students heading to university do have some choice about where they will go, for example.
But in the public school system, it largely comes down to where students live.
That doesn’t mean education shouldn’t get reviewed. But ranking the schools has the potential of quashing some young school spirit — without accomplishing much else.
After all, if the province believes the study is flawed, is it likely to chip in to areas the study reveals as problematic?
It also comes down to where the province wants to put its resources — what limited resources it has.
The province of Ontario has largely espoused standardized testing in its schools.
But it’s to the point that some teachers feel virtually their whole efforts get centred around preparing students for such tests.
Is that “the very best quality education possible” or the best use of a teacher’s time?
In an economic climate where local schools have to fight to simply get an extra teacher for a burgeoning class it’s hard to get too upset when the province doesn’t have data for a think-tank.