BC United seeks to ban cell phones in all schools, but others say let schools decide

Ontario and Quebec have banned cell phones in classrooms, but in British Columbia the decision is left to individual teachers, schools or districts.

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Cell phones are hindering classroom learning and it’s time to ban them completely in all schools, said BC United leader Kevin Falcon.

“Given all the evidence that is emerging in terms of the negative impacts, showing that our children learn less and perform worse as a result of cell phone use, it is time for a province-wide ban on cell phones in class that can be applied to protect our children. Falcon told Postmedia News on Monday as students returned to school after winter break.

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But even as the Ministry of Education reassesses its policy on cellphones in schools, a Prince George mother said the cellphone issue should be left up to individual school districts, so the province can focus on the problems. most pressing issues of staff shortages and, in rural and remote areas of the province, persistent school bus cancellations.

Laura Weller, president of the Prince George’s District Parent Advisory Council and whose three children are in grades 9, 8 and 6, recognizes that children misuse phones in class in ways that can distract them from their learning.

“But a province-wide mandate doesn’t necessarily help,” he said.

Weller said she would prefer schools and districts consider cell phone policies that include feedback from families and students rather than implementing a blanket top-down directive from the Ministry of Education.

“It doesn’t help to introduce a provincial change that could otherwise be implemented immediately with much less effort at the school level by parent advocacy,” he said.

Ontario has had a policy banning cell phones in class, except during learning activities, since 2019 and Quebec followed suit with a rule that came into effect this month.

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In British Columbia, it is up to each teacher, principal or school district to decide whether they want to eliminate cell phones from classes.

For example, Belmont Secondary in Langford requires students to check their phones at the door or leave them in their bags, and Chatelech Secondary School in Sechelt banned phones in class a year ago.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization issued a report in July calling on schools around the world to remove smartphones from classrooms, saying they detract from learning and harm health. mentality of the students.

The report referred to studies carried out in the United Kingdom, Belgium and Spain showed that students performed better in class when phones were removed.

Falcon said those results can’t be ignored, especially in light of BC’s performance in international student assessment rankings that showed BC students are falling behind Alberta students in all subjects.

“Given the UNESCO report published last year and the leadership demonstrated in Quebec and Ontario on this issue, it is time for the provincial government to provide a consistent standard across the province that ensures all our children receive the benefit of a limited education. screen time during classroom sessions,” said Falcón, father of two daughters who are in eighth and fifth grade.

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The BC Teachers’ Federation doesn’t have a position on cell phones in class, but the union’s first vice-president, Carole Gordon, echoes Weller’s concerns about a province-wide ban.

“A provincial approach is really difficult because it’s hard to write something that works for everyone, everywhere,” he said, adding that some teachers might welcome cell phones in classes if they are related to the lesson plan.

Education Minister Rachna Singh was not available for an interview on Monday, but said in a statement: “While we know that technology in the classroom can be a distraction, we also know that technology can be a useful learning tool and that some students are dependent on devices. for accessibility. Here in BC, many school districts already have policies in place that restrict cell phone access for students at school. Principals and teachers also have the ability to restrict the use of mobile phones in classrooms.”

Singh said the province is evaluating cell phones in class, but did not give a timeline for any announcement.

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