Schmaltz draws on past success to launch Re-Imagine Education

May 16, 2018

Randy Schmaltz shared vision for Re-Imagine Education with those attending Council.

In his address to the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation Annual Meeting of Council, Executive Director Randy Schmaltz considered the past, both recent and earlier, as a segue to launching a bold new initiative called Re-Imagine Education.

Schmaltz reminded councillors how, despite challenges such as reduced funding for the sector, it is a time of opportunity and that the Federation and its members have a crucial role to play.

“We have always risen to meet new challenges and seize new opportunities. Yes, there are risks. The risks of doing nothing are even greater. The risks of not having the imagination to see what can be accomplished are even greater still,” he claimed.

“I think you will agree with me when I say that right now, there exists a vacuum in our education sector. Thirty years ago, as a sector, we set out nine goals for education in Saskatchewan. These goals were based on the work done for the 1984 Directions report.

“Back then, the education sector had a crazy idea. Each of the parts of public education should work together towards a singular, unifying goal focused exactly where it should be–developing the full potential of all students.”

In the view of Schmaltz, the broad, foundational work that drove the entire sector towards a clear set of goalposts has been lost.

“It hasn’t been updated; it’s stale. It doesn’t reflect new technology, new pedagogy or changing social norms and expectations. We believe that once again, the time has come to have a comprehensive discussion about public education.”

That served as the platform for Schmaltz to excitedly roll out the Re-Imagine Education campaign. 

“The purpose of Re-Imagine Education will be to refresh the answers to some very fundamental questions.”

He cited questions such as: What do schools need to do? Are we asking for too much or too little, and from whom? We also need to ask aloud who is responsible for what, what constitutes an educated person, what will students need to learn beyond 2020, what should be the core curriculum, and how do we prepare students for a world that will include technology we can’t imagine and jobs that don’t yet exist?

Schmaltz asked those in attendance to ponder the above in the quest for answers. “We need to ask the right questions and then just listen,” which he suggested should be simple enough–particularly for a group of teachers.

“The Re-Imagine project is about rekindling the conversation about public education–as educational partners and champions of public education. On behalf of our students, we have a responsibility–one that is not to be taken lightly. We need to speak on their behalf. After all, that is what teachers do. Before we speak, we need to listen,” he said.

According to Schmaltz, the Re-Imagine project will begin with a comprehensive review of the current educational, political, social and fiscal terrain. The review will contain a summary of the important issues teachers face, best practices from other jurisdictions and a review of the relevant research.

“It will help us to ask the right questions through not another report but a discussion guide. This will help us to ask the right questions, then we listen. The second step in this project is to embark on a comprehensive, inclusive, provincewide public consultation, open to anyone with an interest in public education,” Schmaltz explained.

Elaborating on the process, Schmaltz said, “once we have listened, discussed and explored, we will turn our attention to imagining. We will work collaboratively, because that is what teachers do, and capture a renewed vision for public education in a set of recommendations for the consideration of decision makers in government, school divisions and in classrooms and communities across our province.

“Is it ambitious? Yes. Is it achievable? Yes, but only because we have teachers tucked away in every corner of the province. Together we can make a difference. It’s work that needs to be done and we are up to it,” Schmaltz stressed.