Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Origins of the #bcedplan - Updated

Note: This blog entry was picked up by Tyee writer Katie Hyslop, who did an excellent story available here: http://thetyee.ca/News/2012/10/05/BC-Education-Plan/

It is easy to think that we are immune here in Canada from the influence of the global "education reformers" who claim to want to improve schooling. What they really want is to reduce government expenditures, reduce public service delivery, reduce the levels of service publicly funded, and at the same time create a massive opportunity for private providers in the long sought after K-12 "market".

In fact, BC is a case study in how these ideas have been purposely propagated as part of a global strategy.

Take a look at GELP, otherwise knows as the Global Education Leaders' Program. If you are familiar with ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council - a right wing organization that is propagating reactionary legislation through all the US states), GELP will look frighteningly familiar. It is a global group of "leaders" with a vision - transform public services so they do less with less, with private partners. Kind of like Charter schools or vouchers. Except with the appearance of making things better. More 21st century.

GELP describes themselves: "GELP is a community of system leaders, policy-makers and thought-leaders collaborating to transform education at local, national and international levels, to equip every learner with the knowledge and skills to thrive in the 21st century."

They acknowledge their "partners": Promethean, a "global education company that supports teaching and learning through integrated technology and training."; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Cicso Systems Inc; the Ellen Koshlan Family Fund; and Innovation Unit, a "not-for-profit social enterprise which supports innovation in public services."

One of GELP's "Jurisdictions" is none other than BC. There is a proud link to the bcedplan video here: http://gelponline.org/gelp-community/jurisdictions/british-columbia. And a little more digging finds a GELP case study report on, yes, you guessed it, the bcedplan. You can find the whole thing here (http://gelponline.org/resources/transforming-education-case-study-british-columbia), but interestingly, the report identifies the origins of the plan:"At an international conference held in Vancouver in 2009, a team from the Ministry connected with Valerie Hannon, a director of Innovation Unit and a consultant in the Global Education Leaders’ Program (GELP). Her presentation, ‘Only Connect’, struck a chord with the BC Ministry and under the leadership of Gordon Campbell, then Premier in the Province, a series of high level meetings took place which resulted in a radical vision for transforming education in British Columbia."

So what is Hannon's view of a "radical vision"? Some insight can be found in a paper she co-authored for Cisco Systems. In "Developing an Innovation Ecosystem for Education", the radical vision is described clearly: "how to design public services that deliver different and better outcomes at a lower cost." (page 7)  This is done through "radical efficiencies", such as "a reduction in the number of interventions made by professionals", "decommissioning of space", "looking to alternative providers", and having "users of services frequently assume a more active role in their delivery, which serves to enhance the benefits of the service for these and other users and to reduce the costs of provision".

And how will the bceplan do less for less with this radical vision? Well, just one example is special education - perhaps one of the most expensive areas of our current school system. This process began back in 2002 with the elimination of targeted funding for most students with special needs. It has progressed through the decade with the elimination of class composition rules (placing a limit on the number of students with special needs in any one class to ensure integration not segregation, as well as adequate teacher time) and the loss of over 700 special education teachers.

But here is how GELP's case study describes the "next wave of reform": "Decategorisation of special needs education. In the words of Rod Allen, there will be 'no labels and no medical model. In a 21st century personalised world, I’ll tell you what a special education looks like if you can tell me what a ‘normal’ education is.'”

It is not surprising that Gordon Campbell was struck with Valerie Hannon's ideas. The past decade has been all about the same type of "savings" she describes. As the BC Education Coalition pointed out back in 2010, these "savings" took place even before the Ministry was in love with Hannon's ideas:

Between 2000/01 and 2009/10, the Education Ministry reports that BC has seen a net loss of 148 schools ("decommisioning of space")

Net loss since 2001-02 of public school teachers: 9% ("reduction in the number of interventions made by professionals")

Students with Special Needs: grad rates for most districts have declined in recent years, some by double digits (perhaps a consequence of an unrealistic expectation that "users of services" will be able to "assume a more active role in their delivery" because we apparently no longer need "labels" or a "medical model" for students with disabilities)

(Note: I wrote a related blog post a year ago...different company, same message: http://www.staffroomconfidential.com/2011/10/transformation-agenda-for-bc-education.html)


  1. Great post, Tara. Of course, it's a disheartening confirmation of what we all suspected, and it goes beyond just another neo-liberal nail in the coffin.

    On the other hand, I'm teaching a lesson tomorrow on euphemisms and jargon, and I've just discovered some great new examples!

  2. Thanks for a good blog. I'm going to look more into this GELP thing. I think that education needs to go drastically in the OTHER direction from what they suggest.

  3. Excellent continued justification for our cynicism. Let's hope this kind of awareness will build to the tipping point and we can all watch government clean its own house or at least understand the need for political revolution.

  4. Great post Tara ! I've been digging this GELP thing since reading your article. Just found the funding structure of GELP in their prospectus:

    "The Program development and delivery costs for the first year of participation in GELP are
    provided by funding partners. Teams need to cover the costs of their expenses such as:
    » travel and accommodation to attend two global events;
    » travel incurred while working together between events, if the team is geographically
    » the time to attend global and other local events;
    » time and any other resource required to support their day-to-day work towards
    achieving the aims identified in their GELP foci or priorities." http://gelponline.org/sites/default/files/gelp_prospectus_2012-13_1.pdf

    I actually don't mind people of different country meeting to talk about different educational practice. I think it's great and can have good benefits (Chris Kennedy has blogged about that here http://cultureofyes.ca/2012/06/17/finland-face-to-face/) What I find difficult to swallow is that those discussion are funded by private money, not public money.

    In my mind, it should be the other way around... but maybe I'm too old fashion...