Category Archives: social policy

Proposed Health Curriculum


Students need to understand the role their behaviour plays in supporting their health and other peoples’ health; they need to know that getting sick happens to everyone and doesn’t always require a visit to the doctor; they need to know how to do simple nursing at home so that people in their care do not get sicker; they need to know what kinds of symptoms require a doctor’s care or even a visit to the hospital.  This is why I advocate teaching First Aid and basic nursing skills such as ways to reduce fevers without resorting to drugs,  appropriate foods to feed patients with stomach bugs or colds, how long a patient needs to rest, stay home, take it easy and what the signs are of severe problems which require help.

I am not advocating that students be trained to be medical professionals but they should be trained to have sufficient knowledge and skills to care for themselves and others and be able to ask reasonable questions about health issues.  Part of growing up should be about caring for other people as well as oneself.  An understanding of the differences in infants and the elderly from the regular population in their health needs is vital.  An educated population could reduce the burden on hospitals and medical professionals.

WHAT IS WELL?

– HOW TO KEEP THE BODY IN GOOD TRIM FOR DEALING WITH BUGS AND ACCIDENTS:

Diet – what kind?

Exercise- what kind? How much?

Sleep – its importance and how much

Main health effects of sleep deprivation (See ...

Main health effects of sleep deprivation (See Wikipedia:Sleep deprivation). Model: Mikael Häggström. To discuss image, please see Template talk:Häggström diagrams (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dealing with stress

Hygiene – both mental and physical eg.

Person washing his hands

Person washing his hands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

hand washing after using the toilet and before eating

The importance of friends

The social self.

The social self. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vaccinations

– how they work

– Dangerous myths about vaccinations

Helmets for cycling

– Proper use

– Rules of the road for cyclists & cars and pedestrians.

– Defensive cycling

Safety – risk appraisal and safe behaviour

– Alcohol

– Cigarettes

SEXUALITY:

Menstrual cycle

Relationships

Male & female genitalia

Well Baby Check up

Well Baby Check up (Photo credit: BenSpark)

Conception

Pregnancy

Birth

Breastfeeding & alternatives

Contraception

STDs

Menopause

– WELL BABY CARE

Senior Strutters March Show

Senior Strutters March Show (Photo credit: Old Shoe Woman)

– ISSUES IN AGING SUCH AS:

Age Wave

Age Wave (Photo credit: jurvetson)

Maintaining physical and mental health

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular Disease (Photo credit: GEEKSTATS)

– Through exercise, diet, participation in the community

– Planning finances for retirement

– Keeping the person living independently as long as possible

Weakening immune system

Loss of bone and muscle strength and ways

Gym Free-weights Area Category:Gyms_and_Health...

Gym Free-weights Area Category:Gyms_and_Health_Clubs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

to reduce it.

Sleeping problems

Elder abuse

MENTAL HEALTH

Dealing with stress

Preventing stress

Good stress

Kindness and compassion as elements in maintaining good health

– WHAT IS SICK?

– HOW THE BODY DEALS WITH ILLNESS – anti-bodies

– Fever

– Fatigue

– SYMPTOMS OF COMMON PLACE ILLNESSES:

Colds

Stomach bugs

Influenza (flu)

Cold/Flu/H1N1 symptom chart

Cold/Flu/H1N1 symptom chart (Photo credit: Kevin Baird)

Viruses

Headaches

Infections

Differences in symptoms and appropriate treatment for the elderly and infants

– TREATMENT OF COMMON PLACE ILLNESSES:

Role of the caregiver in keeping a patient comfortable

Rest – what is it?

Fluid – what kind?

Diet – what kind?

Cold sweat...

Cold sweat… (Photo credit: squishband)

Observation – fever, rashes, behaviour, vomiting, diarrhoea symptoms

Over the counter medication such as acetylsalicylic acid, ibuprofen and acetaminophen, their use, minimum & maximum doses, cautions on use

Symptom suppressors such as over the counter cough and cold medication & how and when to use them

– HOW TO PREVENT INJURIES

Cycling Oxford

Cycling Oxford (Photo credit: tejvanphotos)

Safety on the road

Cleaning up spills

Tidying floors

Understanding which chemicals are dangerous and how to find out if they don’t know.

Storing chemicals and medications appropriately

Fire and scalding prevention

Using and storing knives

Water safety

– SYMPTOMS OF COMMON PLACE INJURIES:

Scrapes

Sprains

Cuts

Bruises

Breaks

English: A typical examination room in a docto...

English: A typical examination room in a doctor’s office. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

bites

Drowning

FIRST AID FOR THE ABOVE

– WHEN TO CALL THE DOCTOR & HOW TO HANDLE A VISIT TO THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE

Bring information about medicines

A clear description of symptoms – the fine art of taking and using notes

Health card

Patience

A child and adolescent’s right to confidentiality – how much, under what circumstances and at what age

– WHEN TO GO TO THE EMERGENCY:

Bankstown Hospital Emergency Room

Bankstown Hospital Emergency Room (Photo credit: redwolfoz)

Bleeding

Breathing

Unconsciousness

High fever (what is a high fever?)

Pain – prolonged or fierce

– & WHAT TO EXPECT

Hospital expectations such as:

bringing health cards

washing hands

wearing a mask for cold symptoms or coughs to prevent spread

First contact

Triage

Waiting times

A child and adolescent’s right to confidentiality – how much, under what circumstances and at what age

– DISEASES FREQUENTLY CAUSED BY LIFESTYLE:

Diabetes 2

Heart and stroke

What scientists call "Overweight" ch...

What scientists call “Overweight” changes with our knowledge of human health (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Obesity

Addictions

Tooth decay and loss

Emphysema

COMMON CHRONIC DISEASES, PROGRESSION AND TREATMENTS:

Diabetes 1

Asthma

Acne

Emphysema

Cancer

Migraines

MENTAL ILLNESS, SYMPTOMS & COMMON TREATMENTS

Explanation of common terms used to describe mental illness such as:

psychotic,

paranoid,

1212mentalhealth-RW

1212mentalhealth-RW (Photo credit: Robbie Wroblewski)

phobia

MOOD DISORDERS

  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • Dysthymic Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Suicide

SCHIZOPHRENIA

ANXIETY DISORDERS

  • Panic Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Social Phobia
  • Agoraphobia
  • Specific Phobia

EATING DISORDERS

ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER (ADHD)

AUTISM

PERSONALITY DISORDERS

Family doctor

Teacher

Support groups

ETCETERA

Explanation of terms bandied about the educational system such as ADD, ADHD, intelligence, autism, learning disability and how they affect a person’s learning and education.  Treatments.

English: Ritalin (Australian packaging)

English: Ritalin (Australian packaging) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Explanation of interaction of physical and mental illness, drugs and physical and mental illness.

Explanation of alternative treatments such as:

Massage on the RM Elegant

Massage on the RM Elegant (Photo credit: yachtfan)

Acupuncture

Chiropractic

Massage

Physiotherapy

Biofeedback

Discussion of drug use: over the counter, prescription, illegal and naturopathic and the role of the pharmacist in ensuring that the appropriate medications are prescribed.

Pharmacy Rx symbol

Pharmacy Rx symbol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Discussion of commonly prescribed medications, how they work and how to use them effectively:

eg Antibiotics

Antidepressants

Antivirals

Analgesics

Antipyretics

Anti-inflammatories

Antihistamines

Examples of curriculum, including the health curriculum (from Ontario’s ministry of education) that could integrate with or already cover the proposed health curriculum. 

Health Curriculum Grades 1 to 8

Healthy Eating.

Personal Safety and Injury Prevention.

Substance Use, Addictions, and Related Behaviours.

Growth and Development

Integration of Mental Health

Grade nine and ten science

A1.4 apply knowledge and understanding of safe practices and procedures when planning investigations (e.g., appropriate techniques for handling, storing, and disposing of laboratory materials [following the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System-WHMIS]; safe operation of optical equipment; safe handling and disposal of biological materials), with the aid of appropriate support materials (e.g., the Reference Manual on the WHMIS website; the Live Safe! Work Smart! website)

A1.8 analyse and interpret qualitative and/or quantitative data to determine whether the evidence supports or refutes the initial prediction or hypothesis, identifying possible sources of error, bias, or uncertainty

A1.9 analyse the information gathered from research sources for reliability and bias

A1.10  draw conclusions based on inquiry results and research findings, and justify their conclusions

B1.3 describe public health strategies related to systems biology (e.g., cancer screening and prevention programs; vaccines against the human papillomavirus [HPV] and measles, mumps, and rubella [MMR]; AIDS education), and assess their impact on society [AI, C]

Sample issue: Early-childhood vaccination programs have greatly reduced the incidence of certain diseases and the social and medical costs associated with them. Influenced by controversial studies arguing that there may be health risks associated with such vaccines, some parents have chosen not to vaccinate their children, which could lead to a resurgence of these potentially deadly diseases.

Sample questions: What strategies are included in public health initiatives aimed at reducing the incidence of smoking-related diseases? What impact have these initiatives had on smoking rates and associated medical costs? How have health authorities responded to the threat of West Nile virus? What effect does this response have on people’s lifestyles? How did various cultures attempt to prevent disease before vaccines were available? What impact have vaccines had on global health?

B 2. investigate cell division, cell specialization, organs, and systems in animals and plants, using research and inquiry skills, including various laboratory techniques;

B3.2 describe the interdependence of the components within a terrestrial and an aquatic ecosystem, and explain how the components of both systems work together to ensure the sustainability of a larger ecosystem

B3.3 describe the complementary processes of cellular respiration and photosynthesis with respect to the flow of energy and the cycling of matter within ecosystems (e.g., carbon dioxide is a by-product of cellular respiration and is used for photosynthesis, which produces oxygen needed for cellular respiration), and explain how human activities can disrupt the balance achieved by these processes (e.g., automobile use increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; planting trees reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere)

Sample issue: Scientists are researching changes in climate patterns as possible contributing factors to an increase in the number of smog days in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada. As the air quality worsens, people may curtail their outdoor activities, and those with respiratory problems may require medical attention, increasing health care costs.

C1.1 analyse, on the basis of research, various safety and environmental issues associated with chemical reactions and their reactants and/or product(s) (e.g., chemical reactions related to the use of cyanide in gold mining, the corrosion of metal supports on bridges, the use of different antibacterial agents such as chlorine and bromine in recreational pools) [IP, PR, AI, C]

Sample issue: Ammonia and chlorine bleach are two common household cleaning agents. How-ever, when these two substances are mixed, the chemical reaction produces chlorine gas, which is highly toxic.

Sample questions: Why is it important to understand the chemical composition of chlorinating agents used in swimming pools before using them? What chemical reactions result in acid precipitation? What impact does it have on the environment? What sources of information are available on the safety or environmental implications of chemicals and chemical reactions? Why is it important to ensure that these sources are up to date? Why is it important to understand WHMIS information, including Material Safety Data Sheets, before using any chemicals?

• recognize that communities consist of various physical features and community facilities that meet human needs;

• use a variety of resources and tools to gather, process, and communicate information about the distinguishing physical features and community facilities in their area;

• describe how people in the community interact with each other and the physical environment to meet human needs

C2.1 use appropriate terminology related to chemical reactions, including, but not limited to: compounds, product, and reactant [C]

C2.2 construct molecular models to illustrate the structure of molecules in simple chemical reactions (e.g., C + O2 ? CO2; 2H2 + O2 ? 2H2O), and produce diagrams of these models [PR, C]

C2.3 investigate simple chemical reactions, including synthesis, decomposition, and displacement reactions, and represent them using a variety of formats (e.g., molecular models, word equations, balanced chemical equations) [PR, AI, C]

C2.4 use an inquiry process to investigate the law of conservation of mass in a chemical reaction (e.g., compare the values before and after the reaction), and account for any discrepancies [PR, AI]

C2.5 plan and conduct an inquiry to identify the evidence of chemical change (e.g., the formation of a gas or precipitate, a change in colour or odour, a change in temperature) [IP, PR, AI]

C2.6 plan and conduct an inquiry to classify some common substances as acidic, basic, or neutral (e.g., use acid-base indicators or pH test strips to classify common household substances) [IP, PR, AI]P

Sample issue: Ultrasound is routinely used during pregnancy to monitor the development of the fetus. It is also used to perform amniocentesis, which screens for genetic disorders, and allows doctors to perform surgery on the fetus before birth to correct some abnormalities. However, there have been few studies on the long-term effects of the use of ultrasound.

Sample questions: How are medical imaging technologies used in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease and stroke? What types of imaging technologies are used in ophthalmology? How have they benefited people who have eye disease? How have developments in biophotonics advanced a range of surgical procedures?analyse a technological device or procedure related to human perception of light (e.g., eyeglasses, contact lenses, infrared or low light vision sensors, laser surgery), and evaluate its effectiveness.

What strategies are included in public health initiatives aimed at reducing the incidence of smoking-related diseases? What impact have these initiatives had on smoking rates and associated medical costs? How have health authorities responded to the threat of West Nile virus? What effect does this response have on people’s lifestyles?

Why do we have a Free Universal Educational System?


One of the big questions that gets asked about school is why we educate our children.  Historically speaking, this is a new phenomenon.  In many societies it was illegal to educate slaves and considered inadvisable to educate women.  In days of old when knights were bold, they thought only monks and scribes should get their hands inky learning to read and write and then only because someone had to copy prayers and bibles and occasionally write some religious instruction. It wasn’t just in medieval times and in the Catholic religion that it was considered better if the priesthood kept literacy and the mysteries of religion to themselves, but it is one of the better known examples.

That Alfred the Great of England learned such priestly skills at his mother’s knee and later established a school for the children of the nobility so that administrators and the powerful would be literate was a wonder at the time.

THE TORAH AND THE BIBLE: READ ALL ABOUT THEM

On the other hand, religion has been the impetus in Judaism and Lutheranism to learn to read so that each person could read and understand the scriptures for themselves.  Although where the boys and girls were taught and exactly how much they were taught might have been different, their literacy and understanding of the scriptures was considered of primary importance so they might know how to act within their society.

LITERACY AS A USEFUL WORKING SKILL

            With the advent of the industrial revolution, employers realised they needed workers who had learned the basics of the three r’s.  That and the tendency of people wanting to read and understand scripture for themselves, lead to a basic education for everyone becoming important.  In England it was at first the churches that took responsibility for primary education.  The curriculum for girls often included many of the domestic arts, especially all forms of needlework.

AND AMONG THE LEISURE CLASS, MORE EDUCATION!

While the children in the church and state schools were being given the skills their employers looked for, the ladies and gentlemen of leisure were educated, as they had long been educated privately at home and, later in history at a boarding school, for more than the simple skills of literacy and numeracy.  It was not uncommon for the aristocracy and the well heeled to speak at least one or two other modern languages, know mathematics and something of the arts and Latin and Greek.  The expectation was that the educated could write competently and read reflectively.

The men who could afford to often spent a lengthy period on the continent, sometimes with a tutor, being exposed to foreign languages, culture and art.  Later, young women might also travel with their family or as part of their wedding tour.

EDUCATION FOR WORKING SKILLS OR APPRECIATION AND THOUGHT?

So education divided itself roughly along two lines: learning some basic skills that would make the learners useful to their eventual employers, whether a king, a shop keeper or an industrialist, or acquiring knowledge, learning how to think and to understand other ways of thinking and living.

WHAT DO WE EXPECT FROM EDUCATION?

A JOB?

So, what is our goal in educating all our children?  Students of twelve and thirteen have some vague idea that is has something to do with a getting a good job.  The definition of a good job was one that makes lots of money.  That sounded to me as if our education system is expected to provide skilled workers for the employers in our society.

SHARED PARENTING?

On the other hand, a few years ago when child obesity was on the rise, elementary school teachers were mandated to ensure that each child got twenty minutes of cardiovascular exercise each day.  There was no suggestion that parents encourage their children to walk to school or insist they spend some time outdoors each day or turn off everything electronic after school.  This looks to me as if society wants education to step up and concern itself with health, the former role of parents.

CHILD SOCIALISATION?

A friend with a very bright only child looks to the schools to socialise her daughter and thinks they are doing an excellent job.  She feels that it is her job and her husband’s to take care of her education.  I can sympathise; a grade one teacher faced with a child who is reading books about the Chinese and has a clear idea of how the solar and immune systems function, will be grateful to just have to deal with teaching her to stop spitting on her classmates and start participating in team sports.  Enriching her as well would be like having a second job.  Together they make a great team.

HOUSING CHILDREN AS LONG AS POSSIBLE?

The layman’s enthusiasm for students being kept in school seems to be for two reasons:   1.  It will keep them off the streets

2.  It will reduce the competition in the unskilled labour market.

Today we look to our schools to prepare our children for the job market, to help maintain their health, take on some of the parental responsibility and socialise them so that when they are released onto the streets as late as possible, they won’t spit on us, eat their snot or refuse to stand in line for the bus.

AND YET …

The earliest people to educate all the children did it so the children could understand the basis of the morality of their community and read about it when they had time for quiet reflection.  They were not expected to accept one person’s interpretation, although they might respect it; they were allowed and, to some extent, encouraged to develop their own understanding and opinions.

THE WHY AFFECTS THE HOW

How we educate our children depends on why.   In my next post I will discuss problem solving: how we teach it to keep the marks up and how we could teach it to create good problem solvers.

Commentary on “Education for All”


Part One:

Review of the Ontario Ministry for Education & Training’s Policy on Special Education

This is the first of five posts on Special Education and the document Education for All.
What is Special Education and When Does a Child Need It?

The Ontario Ministry for Education and Training defines Special Education in this way:

Students who have behavioral, communicational, intellectual, physical or multiple exceptionalities, may require special education programs and /or services to benefit fully from their school experience.

How a Parent or Teacher’s Concern Goes from Observation to the Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC)

When a teacher’s observations of a student lead her to question whether the child is exceptional and therefore in need of special services or programs, the law requires her to draw the attention of child’s parents, her principal and LST to the child.  Usually the LST then sees that the necessary testing is done to assess the child; if the results of the testing justifies the teacher’s concerns, the LST arranges for an Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC) to be established to consider the child’s needs and strengths. The parents are allowed and invited to attend IPRCs.  They may bring information to the meeting, express an opinion, veto or agree to their child’s placement.

Default Placement for All Exceptional Children is the Regular Classroom

Ontario law explicitly states that a regular classroom should be the default placement for all exceptional children. Where any child is placed in a special education class such as a congregated gifted class or a behavioral unit, a written reason must be given.  No reason needs to be given for placing a child in a regular classroom.  This regulation was put in place in 2005.

In theory the decisions of identification and placement are made at the committee level.  In practice, the testing has already been done, analysed and summarized and, in most cases, the ministry has predetermined the child’s placement by insisting that the regular classroom be the first option considered.  In less time than it takes to pour coffee, most parents have heard the whole story and nothing is left but the signatures.  In fact, if the folk from the school have done their job right, the parents already know everything there is to know and are simply hearing a review.

Curiously, since the law has been in place for four years, gifted children continue to be the exceptions to this rule in some school boards.  While it might be possible to mount an excellent argument for segregated gifted programs, some of the current experts in intellectually talented children feel that these exceptional children should be mainstreamed.  To my knowledge, no written reasons are being given on each IPRC for putting these children into special classes.

The Individual Education Plan (IEP) is a Flexible, Living Document

The Individual Education Plan (IEP) is created by the child’s teacher, with help if necessary from the school’s specialists, from the IPRC’s conclusions.  The IEP is a work in progress, subject to revision each term and as the child progresses.  What it does, besides reiterating the child’s strengths and needs, is to describe in broad strokes what accommodations or modifications the child’s teacher(s) plans to put into place to assist the student. Accommodations refer to changes made to assist the child to learn material at her grade level; modifications involve a change in grade level. The accommodations or modifications can affect the program, material, technology or methods.  This sounds simple and scientific but it is neither.

The IEP is only scientific in that it is a hypothesis based on good information that will be tested by the child and her teacher. The recommendations of the educational testers are a good place to start, but the teacher and student need to collaborate to find the right balance that will work for the individual. This is a bit like a psychiatrist finding the right cocktail of drugs for someone with severe depression. There are a lot of anti-depressants out there, but some will make some people sicker, some will be too much and others might work but at the price of horrific side effects.  A psychiatrist might spend a year trying different doses and combinations of drugs before finding one that works.  And yet the diagnosis was so simple.

The truth of the matter is that it is in the child’s best interests to make the least change necessary for her to learn at the rate of her classmates, if that is possible.  However, if the student’s confidence has been badly shaken, perhaps more support than is strictly necessary might be called for.  Not only that, but children grow and change; just as one design begins to work well, it quite often appears that the IEP will need changing again as the student faces a new challenge or wants to try handling school without a certain accommodation.

So when I suggest the creation and implementation of an IEP is not scientific, I am saying that while it is based on research, best practices and careful assessment of the student’s strengths and needs, the IEP is still an approximation of what might work.  Implementing it successfully requires professional judgment and flexibility rather than blindly following the plan.

The IEP and the Report Card

The student’s report card will indicate that she has an IEP.  This is especially important if she is working below or above grade level in any subject area, but it also indicates that accommodations are in place.  Until recently academically talented children were not allowed to work above grade level; it is my understanding that under certain circumstances, they may be accelerated in a subject area – or even a grade should it be deemed necessary.  But that is another hornet’s nest.

The IEP is Private

A copy of the IEP should be in the student’s file, also known as the Ontario Student Record.  How soon it gets there depends on how high a priority a teacher gives to filing, as only teachers or specific school personnel (or parents under the supervision of the school) may see the OSR.  It used to be that only teachers could keep the attendance record, but that has changed.  Maybe filing will one day be removed from teachers’ hands, too.  At least from elementary teachers’ hands, secondary teachers do not file.  Since the child’s parents also have a copy of the IEP anyone who has a right to peruse the report card will be able to see the IEP for clarification.

This is a brief summary of what Special Education is in Ontario and what the various acronyms along the path mean.  I have not mentioned issues such as equipment or accommodations external to the classroom.  That is a long story.  Suffice it to say that a computer ordered for an exceptional child in the fall of one year will not be in that child’s hands until the fall of the following year.  A year is a long time in a child’s life, longer if she is struggling in school; what are the administrators in the ministry and the school boards thinking?

SECOND POST:  Education for All and the myth of Universal Design

THIRD POST:  A Review of the Material in Education for All

FOURTH POST:  Gifted Children and Education for All

FIFTH POST: Charts taken from, modified and related to Education for All


FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE:

Education for All available in ministry bookstores for $6.00

The Ministry website: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/elemsec/speced/ontario.html

http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_90e02_e.htm

Regulations 35. 3, 11


Talking to Everyone


         The Croll-Lee Report on FSL in New Brunswick has been justifiably criticised as sloppy and limited in its use of research on methods of teaching FSL.  Critics have also pointed out the inaccurate use of figures and tables provided by the New Brunswick Ministry of Education.  It was unfortunate that New Brunswick children were so ill served in what was a good cause and for which there was so much solid evidence available.

            Before I go further, I want to discuss academic research in the social sciences as it has some bearing on this issue. The social sciences such as education are seen as soft sciences because so little can be proved quantitatively.  By quantitative, I mean what can be measured and reproduced given the same situation.  For a start, it is impossible to have identical situations where people are concerned.  In education, no two teachers are alike and no two classes are alike.  No matter how carefully we select for similar age, gender, socio-economic status (i.e. are they upper, middle or lower class) race, faith and ability the classes may be similar but never the same. To do that we have also recognised our own bias, abandoning the myth that researchers operate objectively in studying their subjects     

For many people, this is a new way of looking at things.  Acknowledging bias in scientists, valuing description and narratives as part of the results of research? This is a different world from the expectation that numbers are the most precise way and therefore the best, least biased way of measuring the world around us.  We admit our bias and record it with the narrations or anecdotal evidence.  Sometimes, as action researchers, for example, teachers doing research as they work, the bias is very much a part of the research.  

Just as quantum physics discovered that under some circumstances observation changes what is observed, so too, observing in the social sciences changes what we observe.  I suspect quantum physics may have opened the quantitative thinking world to the potential of qualitative research.  This recognition and the awareness of bias have lead the researcher to include herself sometimes in the story of the research.

That being said, there were facts and figures that needed to be included in the Croll-Lee Report.  The commissioners did comment that little useful information was available.  This is not surprising.  Education ministries and school boards do not evaluate results for their programs as a rule.  They may do it as a spot check or because anecdotal evidence suggests it is necessary but rarely in an ongoing fashion.  Before we become too critical, we have to remember that many ministries across the country have been asked to cut the fat, the deadwood and all positions not relevant to teaching.  Researchers and analysts would be among the first to the guillotine.

A reporter in British Columbia, responding to the events in FSL education in New Brunswick asked the B.C. ministry of education how their French Immersion program was doing.

Asked for comparable B.C. figures [to those citing dropout numbers and numbers achieving ministry goals in N.B.], an Education Ministry spokesperson said the government does not have them. “We don’t track early immersion students through to Grade 12,” she said… “I guess tracking French students was something we’ve never done,” she said.

According to Education Ministry policy, the “major goal” for the French immersion program is for students to become bilingual. The ministry is not, however, checking to see how many students meet that goal.

         From Does Early French Immersion Work? In BC, high demand. BC hasn’t tracked costs or results, but New Brunswick is pulling the plug. By Andrew MacLeod
Published: April 10, 2008, TheTyee.ca

                  However, the dearth of statistical information should not have stopped the commissioners from making good use of what was available.  When I was tearing my hair out trying to get a handle on calculating statistics for a course on research design I took in graduate school, a colleague explained to me that I didn’t have to do my own statistics.  Many people hire a statistician to help them plan the taking of data and the analysis afterwards; studying stats was a good idea, as it would give me an understanding of what was involved.  It was sufficient that I understood the theory and the kinds of cases in which certain methods were used so I could work knowledgeably with the experts.

            Similarly, if time was limited or neither Lee nor Croll were adept at number crunching, they should have employed someone to do it for them.  The sad fact is that the few errors I reviewed with the aid of my own number cruncher may have given them the wrong numbers, but if they had done them the right way, they would have had almost as effective evidence for the points they were trying to make.

            Another unfortunate error was the lack of explanation of research results into the three major teaching methods they were discussing.  Croll and Lee did not need specific expertise in this area; if expertise were needed in all the topics they covered in their review and recommendations, they would have needed experts in teaching FSL, learning disabilities (especially language related ones), school organisation and management, rural and urban schools, language development and teaching L1.  That would have just been the beginning. 

            The purpose in doing graduate work in a subject is to learn to do original research, think logically knowing your own bias and add to the body of knowledge. Most importantly, the student develops expertise to be shared with other people so they don’t have to spend inordinate amounts of time doing their own research or guessing wildly. The student also acquires the skill to read work in other disciplines with a critical eye.

The academic information was available and I have reviewed it in my last post.  With the tools at their disposal, they should have been able to do a more thorough and clearer job.  Dr. Croll taught at the University of New Brunswick, which had a Faculty of Education and housed the Second Language Research Institute of Canada (L2RIC).  I am sure the latter would have been happy to provide appropriate information; they certainly were after the report was published.  In fact, Paula Kristmanson presented a paper on Intensive Core French (see April 19 post on 3 options for FSL delivery) at the fourth International Symposium on Bilingualism in 2003.  She was then at UNB and is now at L2RIC.

If time had been a problem, they should have asked for more time.  If they had a proposal but needed to review it with others who had more specific expertise, then they should have asked for time to do that.  In other words, they did not have to be experts, they only needed to know when to consult them.

What did the commissioners get right?  They did their best to make sure everyone was heard.  I know that one complaint was that there wasn’t enough time for everyone to be heard.  I also know that many people pass the large signs in their neighborhoods announcing an application to deviate from the local bylaw in a building application and neglect to stop and read the details.  They are often the first people to complain when application is approved, the building is built, the tenants move in and they discover the deviation is going to affect their property.  I read through the lists of organisations that were contacted and asked for input; if their members were contacted then, as far as I can tell, every avenue was used to communicate with stakeholders.

The anecdotal evidence the commissioners provide in their report made it clear that there was general and considerable discontent with the way FSL worked in New Brunswick.  The issues were not the small irritants of school life; they concerned quality of teaching, availability of resources and equity issues.  This was not a problem of a few rotten trees, it was a tangled forest of education where flowers bloomed in a few clearings and much of the undergrowth in the rest was so thick it made progress difficult.  The department of education and Croll and Lee were trying to see the forest.  That they botched it is regrettable.

For some interesting criticisms of the report go to http://educationinnb.wordpress.com/2008/05/27/a-response-to-minister-lamrocks-justifications-for-his-fsl-plan/#more-195.     The author does not give sources for many of his facts and he doesn’t state his credentials for weighing the arguments given by the ministry.  However, some of his points are solid.  One of the best points he makes is that Croll and Lee recommend starting the FSL program in Grade 5 with Intensive French.  He correctly points out that programs where Intensive French has been used at that age have had students who have already had several years of French. 

What the commissioners proposed was to start the students study of FSL with Intensive French.  This was not something that had been studied although Intensive French and Intensive English at this age had proved successful with learners who had some of the L2.  By some I mean a little. Starting L2 learning with IF is an idea that needs to be thrashed out with second language teachers and especially those with experience in Intensive French.

The blogger above inadvertently makes a point on behalf of the ministry when he demonstrates that 20% of New Brunswick students, who are the right age for Early French Immersion, live too far away from an EFI program to make it practical.  You will remember from an earlier post that just under 50% of N.B.’s population is rural; one could infer that most of the students who are too far away from EFI are part of that rural population.  Perhaps the ministry was aware that two French streams were de facto discriminating against rural students.

The obvious solution to this is to put French Immersion into all schools, but to advocate that is to forget the enormous costs of two streams in five grade schools of 100 to 200 students. 

In the end the Croll/Lee report was a disaster because it was intended to correct a number of problems but due to its sloppiness created a political whirlwind which destroyed any chance of seriously reforming FSL in New Brunswick.  It became a rallying point for the middle class to push French Immersion rather than a place to start discussions concerning the most effective way to teach French to children.

 

Does Early French Immersion Work? In BC, high demand. BC hasn’t tracked costs or results, but New Brunswick is pulling the plug. By Andrew MacLeod
Published: April 10, 2008, TheTyee.ca