The educational policies of the New Democratic Party government of Manitoba, 1969-1975

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Bueti, Vincent Joseph.
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After a lengthy period in opposition during which time the Manitoba NDP and its predecessor, the CCF, gave relatively little attention to education, the party, following its election in 1969,introduced a far reaching series of innovations in provincial education. The intended purpose of these innovations was to reform what the NDP perceived to be an elitist school system. To achieve this objective, the Schreyer government during the period from 1969 to 1975 pursued the policies of decentralizing administrative authority; democratizing the schools; promoting community involvement; encouraging experimentation; advancing greater equality of opportunity; and expanding minority language rights. These policies and the NDP's philosophy were consistent with "progressive" rather than "traditionalist" education. The reactions on the part of the political opposition parties, professional groups, the press, and the general public to the NDP government's attempts at reformation must be described as unfavourable. While some support may have existed in the early stages, by 1974 disapproval was at times vehement. The government was accused of having "trivialized" education with its encouragement of "permissiveness." Critics maintained that academic standards had dropped because of a lack of emphasis on the "basics" or the "three Rs", and the overemphasis on students' social rather than intellectual development. Although it is difficult to conclusively prove that academic standards did in fact decline because of the NDP's educational policies, it is the author's opinion that the "progessive" education promoted by the government assisted least the children of the lower classes whose interests the Manitoba New Democratic Party government was avowedly dedicated to improving.