June 2012

Provincial Government Cancels Support for Science Literacy Program for BC Children and Families

 British Columbia Public Education scene has been in turmoil in the past few years. Last year, a job action of BC teachers has shaken it even more. However, the actions by the BC Government towards public education make many of us even more puzzled than the actions of BC Teachers’ Union. Just yesterday, our Premier, Christie Clark announced the cancellation of the support for science literacy programs in BC. Maybe you are thinking it is not  a big deal, as our students have enough of science anyways… Apparently Christie Clark doesn’t think science education is important, but how true is that? How dangerous is this attitude in a modern world? (Prov Govt Cancel Support for Sc Literacy Program ). As far as I am concerned, this is as far from the truth, as to say that science is taught well in our elementary schools. My experience as a science educator and as a parent of two teens in BC schools has taught me that our students (many of them) have very limited exposure to science in K-7. And I have experience mostly with the schools in the Greater Vancouver area that have far more opportunities than rural schools and schools in remote locations in BC (I know that as one of the organizers of the UBC Physics Olympics that hosts students from all across BC). Since I have been concerned with science outreach for years, when I came to BC 8 years ago, I immediately started volunteering for Scientists and Innovators in the Schools organization that is run by the Telus World of Science (in Vancouver). This volunteering opportunity allowed me to visit schools in remote areas of BC (since I was paid the transportation costs and lodging when I needed to stay over night – otherwise, I would not have been able to afford it). I cannot express how important these visits were for the teachers and for the students and for me, as a scientist and a teacher educator. Many kids even wrote letters to me afterwards and the contacts I made with the teachers stayed…  Unfortunately, access to science is very uneven in our province. While some of us have the benefit of living close to Beaty Biodiversity Museum on UBC Campus, Telus World of Science and many other science museums and organizations, many kids in BC have very little access to these programs. Some of them have never met or spoken to a scientist (think of a lack of role models). Therefore, the links these kids and their teachers can make with the scientists and science are crucial. Yet our current government doesn’t think that investing in science education of ALL KIDS is important. How near sighted is this policy! How dangerous it is not to invest in the future generation! How many doors will be closed for these kids! As a science educator and a Canadian citizen living in BC, I am very concerned with these recent developments and I wonder how detrimental governmental policies should be in order for us to say Enough is Enough – we have to invest in all of our kids – kids who live in Vancouver and kids who live on the tip of Vancouver Island, kids who live in Kelowna and in Terrace, kids who live in every corner of our province… I think time to act in defense of science education in BC is now.

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