FTLComm - Tisdale - October 14, 2000


More than a fifteen years ago Saskatchewan and most other educational jurisdictions in North America adopted the basic strategy of "Resource Based Learning." The concept was not entirely new as we have always in post secondary education known that the primary source of academic development for each student was the library. Universities around the world put their resources into the library and built their school's reputation upon what they offered in scholarship from the materials they were able to accumulate and provide to students.



obsolete in
a single

Moving this strategy to the public school system has been more than an uphill grind. The classroom teacher depends upon materials that are at hand, that can be readily available to his or her students and for a century that has meant a "textbook" and in many cases "workbooks". The use of workbooks has been a plague in school systems throughout my lifetime as these expendable materials are a constant drain on the school's budget each and every year. With the acceleration in both science and technical development, the textbook that could be put in a student's hands for each course and expected to last five to eight years vanished as the material in the texts could be obsolete in a single year.



grew smaller

To keep up, textbook publishers pumped up production and development and with that work the price of the average textbook rose from less than twenty dollars to more than fifty. Still, teachers demanded texts and one could easily see why. Students need materials to carry out their scholarship and with ample budget money available for textbooks, the library budgets actually grew smaller even though the curriculum had turned away from textbook based learning more than fifteen years ago. With few materials in the library the teacher had to keep on demanding for more textbooks. The more textbooks that were purchased the fewer resources were available to fit out the library.



curb tax spending

The crisis for schools grew even more sharply as this past decade was a period of time when budget restrains came in to curb tax spending and the growth of public debt. Things were tight and school budgets were limited to zero increases right at a time when enrollments were showing some decline. The response by administrators and boards was to cut staff and programs. Band, shop and home economics departments were slashed across the province. The irony of this was that these programs are the true basics, what students learn in these practical programs lasts them a lifetime and are not frills at all. The curriculum demanded the support of resource based learning and that meant the adding of teacher/librarians to school staffs, but with the constraints, the reverse was to take place as school boards dropped the teachers working in libraries and replaced them with clerkical staff to shelve the books.



our education system is in jeopardy

The conomic pressure was even greater when you realise that as text books have to be replaced quickly to keep up with the information and technological revolution, so did the materials on the shelves in libraries. Five years is now over the hill, and with smaller budgets and no teachers in the library to see that the resources are in place to support the curriculum, our education system is in jeopardy. Teachers, ever a resourceful bunch, line up at the copy machine replicating textbook pages, workbook pages and assorted materials to support the curriculum. Copying costs soar and parents scratch their heads wonder what is going on with all this paper.



blow their budgets

So far I have just been explaining the problem. What is the solution? When the department of education curriculum established resource based learning as the only way for schools to proceed, the documents explained what had to be done.Few school systems paid any attention to those directions and quite simply have squandered and continue to blow their budgets. To make things work, the board and Directors of Education have to move twenty years forward in time and realise that they are no longer in the late seventies, things and requirements in education have changed. The number one prerequisite is to have a teacher, trained as a librarian, to direct the process, handle the budget and get the materials needed on the shelf and readily accessible to students. The textbook budget has to be axed and reallocated to the library. Teachers have to be trained to use the teacher/librarian and the resouce centre so that they know how to plan their instruction to fit the materials at hand. The final step is to make the parents aware that such a major shift has taken place and that textbooks are history.



real teacher
in charge

Its time for the acid test. Is the school your child attends living in the real world? When you walk through the school, enjoy the displays and the children's work on the walls, but make a beeline to the library. There you will discover if your school is offering a program that will fill the needs of your child. In that library you must determine if there is a real teacher in charge, if there isn't your school has failed to pass the test. Secondly, check the books on the self, if the majority of them are older than five years the library you are in is a rare book room for antique book collectors and fails the test as a school library. The third test for a library is its non-print collection, and a connection that works to the Internet with print capability. Low marks on this third criteria would not fail the library if it has the first two things sorted out.




The criteria for a resource based learning environment is absolutely clearly spelled out in the cirriculum guide and there is no compromise. Without a teacher/librarian available to the teachers and students of the school the place is substandard and the education it offers is not appropriate to the times in which we live and is wasting tax money.