FREDERICTON (GNB) – This year’s $1.4-billion budget for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development represents a 4.4 per cent increase from the previous year. The department’s 2021-22 budget was tabled today at the legislative assembly.

Included are investments to increase access to technology and virtual learning opportunities, to support experiential learning in communities, and to help ensure schools stay safe throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Technology is constantly evolving, which is why we need to ensure our students have the tools and skills to position them for long-term success after graduation,” said Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Dominic Cardy. “By expanding online course offerings and hands-on learning opportunities, students in every region of the province will have the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and experience that they can carry forward in their academic and professional careers.”

To help increase equitable access to technology and to support learning at the high school level, $1 million will be invested in the Laptop Subsidy Program this year. Students who will be starting Grade 9 in the 2021-22 school year, and who are from low- and middle-income families, will be eligible for the program this year. Another $1.2 million will be used to keep the additional technicians who have been hired to ensure that an appropriate level of technical support is available to teachers and students.

A total of $43.43 million has been allocated to Education Services and to further support online and experiential learning initiatives. Highlights include:

  • expanding virtual course offerings for high school students in the anglophone sector, including co-ops, experiential learning and mentorship programs;
  • nearly doubling the number of digital books in the anglophone public-school library, offering about 10,000 titles;
  • supplementing the existing online course offerings for high school students in the francophone sector and supporting resources;
  • expanding experiential learning opportunities for high school students in the francophone sector, primarily through the Projet Vie-Carrière, to support community engagement and career exploration initiatives.

“Not only are we ensuring students have access to the tools they need today for the challenges of tomorrow, we are also working with communities and industry experts to help students forge important connections within their communities,” said Cardy. “Part of building a world-class education system means ensuring your citizenship is engaged and active. That starts with instilling these important values and skills in our learners.”

In keeping with the government’s commitment to raise the wages of trained early childhood educators to $19 per hour through 75-cent per hour annual increases, $3.34 million has been invested in 2021-22. With changes to the minimum wage, hourly wages of trained early childhood educators was raised from $16 per hour in 2018 to $19 per hour on April 1, 2021.