In British Columbia, approximately 32% of the students in the public K-12 education system attend schools located outside of the Greater Victoria, Lower Mainland, and Kelowna areas, many in very small communities that use school facilities as a hub for community activities. No two school districts in British Columbia are alike – some have large numbers of students with schools located in high density urban areas, some have a combination of both urban and rural schools, some cover an expansive geographic area with significant distance in between individual schools, and some have very small numbers of students located in remote, isolated areas far from larger urban centres.
In the summer of 2016, government initiated a review of rural education working with the education sector, the public and community stakeholder groups to develop a better understanding of the operational challenges and opportunities in rural schools and educational programs. The purpose of the engagement was to explore rural school funding and educational practices, as well as the role educational groups and schools play in rural communities across the province.
Input was received through different streams of activities including an initial online discussion, 9 Regional Open Houses, a draft discussion paper with an additional round of online feedback, a technical survey, and formal submissions. Over 32 school districts were represented at the Open Houses and more than 400 stakeholders attended. There were over 8,000 visits to the Rural Education Review website, and almost 370 comments in the online discussion forum. More than 100 school district employees completed a technical survey, and the review received over 50 Formal Submissions from stakeholder groups.
- The first phase was held between November 21, 2016 to January 9, 2017
- Stakeholder submissions were open until January 31, 2017
- Online commenting on the Draft Discussion Paper was open from January 23 to March 15, 2017
- Regional Open Houses were held between January 26 and March 10, 2017
Comments and stakeholder submission are still available to read on the Rural Education engagement website. The results were:
- 270 online discussion comments
- 110 stakeholder surveys
- 14 emails
Input leads to action:
The information received was substantive and although some educational challenges were specific to rural and remote education, many are connected to broader K-12 public education funding. Sustainable, predictable funding is important not only in rural education settings but across the K-12 public education system. Government has launched a funding model review and information obtained through the rural engagement process will be used to help inform the K-12 Public Education Funding Model Review currently in progress.