Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Privatization in Education - by Lezah

It's election day today in BC and there are many hot topics.  When the current party was voted in four years ago, huge cutbacks in health care, education, and senior care were brought forth very quickly after election day.

Education, in particular, was hit hard.  Privatization now seems to be the buzz word of the day.  Private schools are being lauded while public schools are regularly slammed by the media.  An 'independent' think-tank, the Fraser Institute, publishes a list of schools each year and ranks them according (primarily) to Grade 12 final exam results (for the high schools, anyway); somehow, public schools seem to always lag behind.

Interestingly enough, when you compare how BC public school students do nationally, usually we're in the top two; when you compare how Canadian students do internationally (based on 30 000 Canadian 15 year olds who participated in PISA, an international test of literacy, science and math) we consistently are near the top, just behind front-runner Finland, and well in front of countries like the US, Britain and New Zealand.  And yet our current provincial government continues to push the private school concept, and continues to increase spending in the private school sector while decreasing spending in public schools.  And the difference between schools in Finland and schools in all these other countries?  There's absolutely no privatization in Finnish schools.  So, in a nutshell, what I'm trying to say is:  privatization is bad, bad, bad.  
A case in point:  just look at what happened at a high school near where I live.  Previously, this school had a top-notch Chef's Training program.  The Chef was trained at the top cooking school in North America (the Culinary Institute of America); the program was provincially recognized and a frequent award winner; the students were educated well beyond your basic Mickey-D prep:  they prepared great tasting, nutritional food that was beautifully presented.  They raised money for a trip to New York every second year where they visited the top restaurants in the city.  These were kids who, for the most part, were not academically inclined, but instead of the school throwing in the towel, these students were extremely well prepared upon graduation to pursue careers in high-end restaurants.  They were not going to be working in a fast food joint at any time.

Unfortunately, after the cutbacks the program was shut down and a private company was brought in to run the cafeteria. This private company, as part of their contract, also received the revenue from the vending machine (this money had previously gone to the Athletics Department to buy new sports equipment).  
But beyond that, it seemed that the repercussions of this cutback were relatively minor, in the grand scale of things - until some industrious students formed the Business Club.  Their goal was to raise money to take a trip to China two years from now; the vehicle they were using to raise money was the school store, which had been out of operation for the last few months.  These students did consumer surveys, looked at the nutritional analysis of products, scrubbed and cleaned and painted, advertised and promoted... They finally targeted two groups:  the Asian students at the school, whose food choices were limited; and the health conscious.  They decided to offer a 'healthier' option, like sushi, which would appeal to both groups.  Everything went well until the private company running the cafeteria put in an official complaint with the School District.

A lady from 'Food Services' came out; the Health Inspector was sent.  All stops were pulled.  And the result was far reaching, because not only was the school store order to discontinue many of their products, leaving them with a skeleton menu, other groups in the school were also affected.  Now, for anyone wanting to do a food related fundraiser?  Only two per month will be permitted.  The annual Multi-cultural lunch?  Nope, no can do.  The Students' Council Annual Free Ice Cream Day?  Sorry.  The Grad BBQ?  No, try again.  Bake sales?  Not if it's prepared in someone's home?  Cake walk?  Grow up!  

Frickin' ridiculous, is all I have to say...

No comments: