Most Prairie parents feel pandemic policies have hurt their child’s education
The pandemic—and the response from premiers across the Prairies—has raised serious concern among parents about their children’s learning loss over the last 20 months.
According to a new Leger poll (commissioned by the Fraser Institute), which conducted 1,000 interviews with parents across Canada who have kids in K-12 schools, 72 per cent of parents in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and 68 per cent in Alberta say their child has fallen behind due to the pandemic and the government’s response to it, compared to 67 per cent nationally.
More strikingly, about one in five parents (21 per cent) in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and 18 per cent in Alberta say their child has fallen behind and they aren’t confident their child’s school has a plan to catch them up, compared to 17 per cent nationally.
Think for a moment about a class of 25 kids. Consider the impact on classrooms where, according to this poll, a significant percentage of parents believe their child has fallen behind.
Conversely, only about one-quarter of parents in the Prairies say the pandemic and associated government policies have had a minimal impact on their child’s education—specifically, 27 per cent in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and 26 per cent in Alberta.
In response to the pandemic, the Alberta government closed schools provincewide for 16 weeks, the Saskatchewan government closed schools provincewide for 15 weeks, and the Manitoba government for 14 weeks. Individual school districts have continued to close schools due to COVID, with a single case in Saskatchewan spurring a two-week closure earlier this school year.
What about the rest of Canada?
From coast to coast, as previously noted according to the poll, 17 per cent of parents say their child has fallen behind and their school has no plan to catch them up. And another 14 per cent say their child has fallen behind a lot but they’re more confident about their school’s ability to address the problem.
British Columbia, however, remains an outlier in Canada with only 11 per cent of parents who say their child has fallen behind and their school has no plan to catch them up. Incidentally, B.C. has the highest rate of independent school attendance in the country at more than one in every eight students. According to the poll, parents of children in independent schools across the country were significantly less worried about their children having fallen behind (and their school’s plans to catch them up). Indeed, across Canada, 82 per cent of parents of children in independent schools said their child’s education was “minimally impacted” or that their child is “behind a little” compared to 64 per cent of parents with children in public schools.
To recap, according to the polling data, among provinces, a higher proportion of parents in the Prairies feel their child has fallen behind due to the pandemic (and the response from government) and that their school has no plan to catch them up. If provincial governments in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta want to address these concerns, they should consider education reforms, perhaps with an eye on B.C.