Wednesday, October 12, 2011

BCPSEA - missing the point on local bargaining

One of the issues on the teacher bargaining table is to move more issues to local Districts and teachers unions to negotiate.

The BCTF has used the slogan "local bargaining of local issues by local parties". The idea is that different communities have different needs and those local communities should be able to work through issues and come to solutions that work for them locally. It allows diversity and creativity and innovation.

Does this mean some of the same topics will be on different local bargaining tables? Absolutely. But it doesn't mean the issues or the solutions are the same and it doesn't mean each table is replicating the same discussion, as BCPSEA seems to think.

For example, one local/District might want to put more resources towards salaries to retain teachers in their community because high teacher turnover is a critical issue. Another might want lower salaries and to put more resources towards smaller class sizes because there are particularly high incidences of students with special needs. Another might want resources put towards travel costs for professional development opportunities if they are in a small town, and will sacrifice a higher salary increase to do this. In all these cases, salary will be on the table. But does this mean all the issues and solutions are the same? Is this duplication? I don't think so - I think it is finding local solutions to local issues by local parties. It is in everyone's interest and leads to better schools. Local resources should be directed to different areas in a flexible manner and school Boards and teachers should be able to talk about what works best in their local communities.

BCPSEA's only argument for provincial bargaining is "efficiency". I suppose it is true that a cookie cutter education system might be more "efficient". We could have national curriculum, eliminate school Boards, implement identical timetables, and so on. A master collective agreement would make sense in a system like this. So does scripted curriculum (same page, same content, same day). So does standardized testing. Look south to the US to see lots of examples. Teaching and learning plummets in systems like these.

It is ironic that at the same time BCPSEA (on behalf of the provincial government and school Boards) wants increased standardization, everyone else in the education community is talking about increased personalization. There is general agreement that "factory" style schools do not serve individual student needs. Rather than more standardization, we need increased opportunities for individuals and local communities, even if it isn't the most "efficient".


  1. I enjoyed reading this particular comment highlighting the incongruities between what BCPSEA wants for school boards and what it wants for everything and everybody else, in particular teachers and students. What is good for the goose is not good for the gander, apparently!

  2. So we should have different standards in BC than we do in say, Quebec? Or let say Alberta? I guess if we can't have the same standards, we should not strike for the same wages?

  3. The introduction of national "standards" in the US has been a disaster. See here, for example, for a more thorough discussion.

    It's important not to confuse "standards" with "quality". If we want democratic citizenship, critical thinking, inquiry and creativity in our curriculum, then "standards" and "standardized tests" will fail. These types of standards lead to meeting a minimum level of the lowest form of learning - memory recall.

  4. Thank you Tara for fighting for personalization. It is very important to me that we stay away from standardization of the system. I wonder if we can convince them though. It seems to me we need more commercials and media to get the word out to the public. Thank you for continuing..... I just wish it didn't take so many meetings and game playing to get there.