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:
- government; exercise of authority; control.
- 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…
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.
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.
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”.