Education Bucks control numbers
NNSL (OCT 23/96) - The NWT has one of the highest student-teacher ratios in the country, a close second to Alberta.

And Charles Dent, minister of education, says it will only get worse as budget cuts put more pressure on school boards.

"Unless we have a windfall of funds - and my expectation is that this won't happen - I don't see it (the ratio) going down," he says. "My feeling is that it will likely increase."

The NWT ratio now stands at 17.4 students for every teacher. Alberta's ratio last year was 17.9.

Dent is concerned about the increasing number of students in each classroom. But he says he's not aware of any definitive research suggesting that it has a huge impact on the quality of education.

"I'm not aware of any that suggests this, but my gut feeling says it can't help," he says. "Especially in an area like this with a higher than average number of special needs students."

Jim Gilbert, past president of the NWT Teachers' Association, says teachers see class size as integral to the quality of education.

He says the lack of a territorial provision for a maximum class size is a problem in the North.

He also points out that the student-teacher ratio includes support staff, such as principals, vice-principals and librarians, that skew the numbers even more.

"Some classes are likely larger than the ratio," he says.

Loretta Foley, superintendent for Yellowknife Separate Education District No. 2, says educators are living with the high ratio.

"We may have (one of) the highest in the country, but they are high everywhere," she says. "The government has cut our funds and has told us they will continue to cut for the next three years."

While the current situation concerns Foley, what really worries her is the possibility things could get even worse.

"We need to have a look at our learning framework," she says. "Businesses are doing things differently, and so must schools."