A survey of Saskatchewan’s education system has highlighted the need for literacy support in the province and stakeholders see the report as an opportunity for improvement.
“Equitable access to learning opportunities simply doesn’t exist,” said Sheryl Harrow-Yurach, executive director of Foundations Learning and Sk**ls Saskatchewan.
The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission launched a systemic investigation after receiving complaints from 29 families in 2020 who said their children were being discriminated against in schools because of disabilities like dyslexia. The report included recommendations on how to create more supports for children with these kinds of needs, but also how to increase literacy rates in general.
Harrow-Yurach said there are many reasons why children and adults struggle, noting that learning disabilities are a big part of it, but said not everyone makes the transition from kindergarten to Grade 12 following a linear process.
“Reading sk**ls are even more important today than they were in 1979.”
Harrow-Yurach said that in most workplaces, many daily tasks depend on the quality of our reading, comprehension and writing sk**ls.
“This is mainly due to the impact of technology, in our workplaces, in our homes, it’s just integrated into our lives more than it has ever been.”
The Saskatchewan Ministry of Education has set goals for 2020 to have 80 per cent of students meet or exceed grade level in reading, writing and mathematics.
The report notes that this goal leaves about 36,000 students, or one in five students, not meeting these goals.
Figures from previous years were much lower, with only 66.8 percent of Grade 1 students meeting or exceeding this standard in 2019.
This figure drops even further when looking at First Nations, Inuit or Métis children, where only 40 per cent of Grade 1 children met or exceeded this target.
Harrow-Yurach said children who reach grade level are influenced by several factors, emphasizing whether learning disabilities are detected early and whether schools and teachers have the resources and training to support these children, but she said there was one factor that was often overlooked. .
“Do the parents themselves have the necessary literacy sk**ls to be able to support the child?
She said one in three adults have difficulty mastering literacy, adding that she often encounters situations where parents cannot support their child as much as they would like.
“I believe this report can be a watershed moment for families with children with learning disabilities, not just for them, but simply an opportunity that will open up the conversation about what equitable access to education is.” .
She said that all parents want what is best for their child, but if a parent spends their time fighting for what is necessary, they often do not make time for their child to ensure that he feels like a successful learner.
Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation president Samantha Becotte acknowledged more support is needed to support children in school.
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“It just confirms what we’ve been talking about as teachers for several years. There are growing challenges in our schools and teachers are doing their best with parents to try to support each child and meet their needs, but there is less and less professional support available in our schools,” said Becotte.
She said this was a direct result of the government’s underfunding of schools.
When asked how well-equipped teachers are to support a child who may have dyslexia, Becotte says it’s becoming increasingly difficult.
“It becomes increasingly difficult to meet these individual needs when you have a larger number of students in your cla*s and there are no additional adults with you.”
She said it was increasingly difficult to work one-on-one with children, adding that children were also placed on waiting lists of up to two years to be a*sessed.
Becotte gave the example of a situation where these types of learning disabilities were first discovered at the high school level.
“Some students, through their own abilities, are able to mask some of these needs throughout their education, and some of these reading challenges are identified at the high school level.”
She wonders to what extent the situation of these children would have been better if these needs had been identified at a younger age.
Becotte added that children with only the highest needs are added to the waiting list, so some fall through the cracks.
PKBNEWS received a statement from the Ministry of Education.
“The Ministry of Education is aware of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission report and will need additional time to review it to consider connections to work and initiatives already underway” , we can read in the press release.
He also highlighted current budget funding, saying this money “provides cla*sroom supports to ensure all students have equal access to and benefit from the provincial education program in an inclusive education context.”
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