H. Mark Ramsankar was elected as Canadian Teachers’ Federation president in July 2016 after serving five terms as CTF vice-president. He is past president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association.
In his speech to ETFO 2017 Annual Meeting delegates, Mr. Ramsankar addressed the following issues:
- the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) that stresses competition, choice and test-based accountability for students and teachers as the main means of improving public education. GERM devalues public consultation and teacher professional judgement when constructing education systems. It is a market-based, corporate movement that has put many public schools at risk in the United States and also threatens public education in many Canadian provinces. For example, publicly funded private schools exist in a number of Canadian provinces including British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec – and in Alberta, the provincial government funds up to 70% of the cost of private schooling. Said Ramsankar: “It is unacceptable to use public funds to fund private schools.”
- Technology corporations have been significantly remaking the nature of public schools and school curricula. Through their lobbying efforts and philanthropy, they are influencing the subjects taught in schools, the classroom tools that teachers choose and approaches to teaching.
- Contracting out of school-based services for special education (e.g., speech and language support, psychologists, etc.). Ramsankar noted that “Education will be paid for. The question is, by whom?”
The CTF president expressed concern about the rush toward the use of technology in schools at the expense of the “human factor” in teaching. “There are things that computers will never be able to do as well as a teacher,” said Ramsankar. “Greeting a student at the door, asking how their sports endeavours went last night, consoling them and asking how their sick parent is. These are the things that humanize the education experience.”
Ramsankar congratulated ETFO on its 18-point strategy to work with members, locals and the public on dealing with violence in schools. He also highlighted the work CTF has been doing lobbying against the shift to privatization taking place under the guise of accountability and advocating for public education and teacher professional judgement. For example, We the Educators is a CTF project that analyzes some of the most profound developments in education related to standardization, privatization and technology-driven datification and its effects on teaching and learning around the world.
Ramsankar ended his speech by asking 2017 Annual Meeting delegates for their help in advocating for public education, its needs and its benefits.