As we get our kids ready for the school year ahead—adjusting to changing schedules and new routines—I am filled with incredible optimism.
After years of underfunding by the previous government, Premier John Horgan made it a priority to quickly make a number of positive changes in B.C. schools, recognizing no investment is more important than a quality education—it's the key to a better future and a prosperous economy.
For the students, teachers, and parents who suffered through crowded classrooms for generations, we've funded the hiring of a record-breaking 3,700 new teachers and education assistants. School districts across the province are actively filling any remaining positions with a huge recruitment effort, plus we have added more spaces in teacher education programs to bring in more French, Indigenous, and specialist instructors to add more highly skilled educators to B.C. schools. Students are now better served with more resources to help them thrive.
To support growing communities and ensure kids are safe in the event of an earthquake, we injected the highest levels of capital funds in history—fast-tracking upgrades and building new schools. Our annual $5-million playground fund means parents can focus on helping their children reach their full potential, instead of fundraising. And, over the next year, we will change the way we fund school districts so we can make the system more fair, ensuring every learner receives the time, attention, and resources they need, regardless of their background or where they live.
British Columbia is already a world leader in education, with our learners regularly ranking among the best in international assessments. But there are still too many kids who are slipping through the cracks.
The new curriculum will help to address this, and I've seen first-hand how students are benefiting from critical thinking, teamwork, and flexible, personalized learning. Best of all, these strategies help kids feel more connected and engaged with what they are studying, so they have a better chance of success.
To feel this important sense of connection, Indigenous students need to see schools embrace and reflect their unique heritage and perspectives. That's why we have built Indigenous content into all subjects—from math to science to literature—and we've also added 17 Indigenous languages in classrooms. Education is a powerful tool for reconciliation, and we are committed to implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action.
There is no question kids have trouble learning when they are feeling stress and anxiety, or coping with addiction. Because of this, government is improving supports for mental-health promotion, prevention, and early intervention. We hosted a first-of-its kind school mental-health conference in May, to help build a comprehensive strategy for students and, this year, learners will have new resources focused specifically on social media, mental health and wellness.
To combat bullying, we created a campaign to teach students that everyone deserves to be welcomed, included, and respected in a safe learning environment, while being fully and completely themselves. No one should be excluded or bullied because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and I'm proud to be a part of a government that is dedicated to an inclusive society.
The graduation years are very important for a student's smooth transition to postsecondary opportunities, and we have to think beyond K-12 and help learners prepare for our ever-changing labour market and society. Learners will now have a better chance of success, thanks to B.C.'s new curriculum, already in place for grades K-9. This year, the new curriculum will be in place for Grade 10, and we will add grades 11 and 12 next year to ensure all students are prepared for the extraordinary range of career opportunities available after high school.
We are getting it done, step by step. We are committed to making constant improvements to B.C.'s already great education system—and to keep looking for new and innovative ways to improve the outcomes for B.C.'s 650,000 students.