The province's new P-12 education plan will put students first by better preparing them for post-secondary education, good jobs, and active citizenship.
The Kids and Learning First plan, released today, Feb. 3, by Education Minister Ramona Jennex, includes 39 actions focused on putting students first, effective teaching and linking the school and community.
"Parents want the very best for their children, including an education that's as good as anywhere in the country," said Ms. Jennex. "While the school system has strengths to celebrate, provincial assessments are showing no significant improvement in math and reading, and in some cases students are losing ground. We are also dealing with a school system that has 30,000 fewer students than it did 10 years ago.
"Kids and Learning First is about doing things differently and improving results by focusing on students' needs."
The multi-year plan invests $6.7 million to:
-- bring more services for kids and families into schools in every county
-- begin a Discovering Opportunities program for struggling Grade 9 students
-- introduce a manufacturing trades course linked to shipbuilding
-- double the number of schools offering skilled trades courses
-- triple the number of students taking courses through virtual school and double the number of its courses
-- expand career development support, including more career coaching workshops for parents
-- introduce a new grants program to allow more community groups to use schools for physical, cultural and education activities
Kids and Learning First is also about helping students better prepare for a career path that is right for them.
"Having the opportunity to be in skilled trades has been really beneficial for me because it gave me a chance to learn in a very hands-on way," said Cora Finanders, a skilled trades student.
"What I've learned in the classroom has helped me decide if the trades are something I want to pursue.
"I think it's great that more students will get the opportunity to try this course and see if it's right for them."
Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) president Don Bureaux also welcomed the new education plan, saying it will help prepare students for the workforce.
"The earlier prospective students can begin exploring and matching their own skills, experience, knowledge and interests to career pathways, the more prepared our workforce will be to capitalize on what's before us as a province," he said.
Students will also get more help earlier in critical subjects and transition years. A new math curriculum will be implemented and Succeeding in Reading will be available in more grades.
The province will work with teachers and other interested groups, including the teachers' union, to develop standards for quality teaching and to better match teaching background to subjects. For example, the most recent data shows that only 37 per cent of junior high math teachers had an academic background directly related to math.
Kids and Learning First opens a discussion with families, school boards and educators about the amount and use of time for learning. Statistics Canada reports that some Nova Scotia students receive less instructional time than students in most other provinces.
Many schools and boards teach more than the minimum hours. The plan calls for a review to determine what level of instructional hours in key areas like math in literacy lead to the best results.
The plan also launches a review of high school courses to help determine the essential skills and knowledge today's graduates need. Currently, more than 150 courses are offered with 18 required for graduation.
Students will soon be able to earn a personal development credit in the community through organizations such as the Cadets, 4-H, Junior Achievement and Nova Scotia Dance.
"Our vision is for every student to become well-educated, confident, responsible adults prepared to create and work in good jobs — to be ready to build lives and families of their own," said Ms. Jennex.
The plan is the province's response to Steps to Effective and Sustainable Public Education in Nova Scotia, a report by Ben Levin, a professor and Canada research chair on educational leadership at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.
"I want to thank the many Nova Scotians who took the time to provide their views and thoughts on the future of education," said Ms. Jennex. "I look forward to working with teachers, parents, students, school boards, unions, communities, and all partners to put Kids and Learning First into action."
For more information on Kids and Learning First visit ednet.ns.ca .