Stepping into a profession, we can expect to be bombarded by acronyms and terms specific to that field.  The BC public education system, for example, is rife with them:  MoE, BCSTA, BCPSEA, BCSSA, BCASBO, BCTF, CUPE, BCCPAC, HR, F&F, AFG, AbEd, IB, PYP, MYP, IEP, FSAs, standardized testing, needs assessment, self-regulation, special needs, 21st century learning, etc.

Amongst the list of terms is one used to describe the model in which Boards of Education and the provincial government function: co-governance.

But what does co-governance mean?

I decided to look it up and started with the word governance.  Here’s what I found:

 governance:  

      1. government; exercise of authority; control.
      2. a method or system of government or management.

And “co-”? It’s apparently a variation of “com-” which is defined as follows:

a prefix meaning “with,” together,” “in association,” and (with intensive force) “completely,” occurring in loan words from Latin (commit): used in the formation of compound words…

Pic for Co-Governance

Putting the two together, I can say co-governance is a shared exercise of authority, control exerted in association with one another, or a partnership system of government or management.

Defining the term is easy, but applying it to BC’s public education system, as currently structured and operating, may be a misnomer.

Why?

Because the inherent nature of the relationship is one of imbalance.  Public education is financed by public revenues which are allocated by the province. 

And if one party in a relationship is the ultimate arbiter of funds, then it may be a challenge to ensure that other critical issues are addressed on the basis of a co-governance model. In the past few weeks alone, we’ve seen the release of a 10-year framework for bargaining as well as the debut of a new website, mostly with little or no direct consultation with Trustees.

I’ll admit it’s not easy when one has a firm grasp of the purse strings to share control, but the current structure is paternalistic and does not lend itself easily to a co-governance model.

And while my call for a Royal Commission on Education is likely to continue falling on deaf ears, here are two things I’d like to see.

First, I would like all eligible voters in BC to vote in the May 14 provincial election no matter what their political persuasion.

Second, I would like the new government, whether Liberal, NDP, Green, Conservative, or other to convene a meeting with Board of Education Trustees.  Maybe two from each district. That’s a group of 120 people. 

And talk. 

Have a real discussion. 

A substantive discussion.  

One where Trustees do most of the speaking and elected officials and Ministry representatives do the listening.  

And then do the same with each significant group in the education sector.

Compile the results of these discussions, distribute the report, and then put everyone in a room together to see if we can work together to ensure that our children will continue to benefit from a vibrant and thriving public education system.  

One that is not characterized, if I may borrow from the philosopher Hannah Arendt, by questions of “what are we fighting against”, but “what are we fighting for?”.

And let’s see, if through dialogue, we can put the “co-” back into “co-governance”.

Here are some numbers I came across while preparing for an upcoming presentation:

  • Women constitute 53% of the world’s population and own 1% of the wealth
  • Women still earn 20% less than men
  • In Canada, women occupy only 11% of the seats on corporate boards
  • Of the 308 parliamentary seats in Canada’s House of Commons, only 68 (22%) are filled by women
  • According to the New York-based Women’s Media Centre, only 3% of media decision makers are women
  • In the 2010 Report on the Global Gender Gap issued by the World Economic Forum, which assesses criteria such as employment equity, health care, and political representation, Canada ranked #20 — a free-fall from #7 in 2005 — putting our country behind the US for the first time ever in terms of its treatment of the female population.

What does this all mean?

I think it means that even in our developed Western world, where gender inequalities are not as apparent as they may be elsewhere, there’s a lot of work to do in sustaining women’s rights and in working towards a better, more just society.  There are worrying indications and further support to be found for this need in articles such as this one from The Globe & Mail on the reduction in the number of women appointed to the judiciary.

My focus here is not to talk about the broader social policy issues — at least not today — but I would like to address what I think this may mean in terms of educating young men and women, boys and girls.

Let’s look at what some consider the three levers of our modern society — money, politics, and the media — and some subject areas or topics which could be incorporated into or emphasized in the curriculum.

Money

On the premise that the more you understand money and how it works, the better you’ll manage your own financial situation.  Are we teaching enough about:

    • financial literacy and budgeting?
    • economics and the history of financial economics?
    • how to contend with the lure of consumerism?

PoliticsReema Faris - West Vancouver School Board Trustee Candidate

Unless you learn why politics is important, how our system works, and its history, you’ll never see or understand the relevance to you and the world you live in.

    • Why aren’t K-12 students exploring elections as they happen?  In our community, students from Capilano University helped to run the All Candidates Meeting hosted by the West Vancouver Chamber of Commerce (Trustees were not included in the official proceedings).  However, as far as I know, none of the municipal candidates were invited into schools to talk to students or to answer questions.  If our intent is to improve the engagement of youth in the electoral process, why not take advantage of real life situations when they are current and relevant?
    • Is the history of the struggle for women’s rights highlighted when Canadian history is being taught?
    • Are biographies or autobiographies of Canadian women included on reading lists for social studies courses or even as examples of non-fiction in English or French language classes?

Media

It surrounds us, it influences us, it continually evolves and changes.  In a recent CBC documentary, Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth, says she finds media images of women getting worse, reinforcing unrealistic expectations and norms.  Are we doing enough to educate students about the media — advertising, movies, music videos, song lyrics, newscasts, etc. — and the influence it has on our behaviours and attitudes?  Did you know that misogynist comments on-line are starting to drive female journalists and bloggers off-line according to a recent article in the UK newspaper, The Guardian.  Women’s voices need to be heard and represented, not shrouded in the silence of earlier eras that would negate the work of great Canadians such as Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, Emily Murphy, and Irene Parlby.  http://archives.cbc.ca/on_this_day/10/18/

There are many other ideas and initiatives we could pursue and explore.  Paying attention to these three areas would be a start because the issue of women’s rights is an issue of human rights — not just abroad, but here at home.