Back to school week is a tremendous reminder that education is the single most important gift that we can bestow on a child. Nothing else gives a person a greater chance for success or happiness in life than a basic education. It lays the foundation of our society and provides us with the skills to communicate, cooperate and build an economy.

In Fort St. John, teachers, students and their parents are certainly looking forward to the official opening of Ma Murray Community in Fort St. John this week. In addition, groundbreaking at the new Northeast Elementary School is just around the corner. Both schools will join the 1,566 public schools currently operating in B.C.

Over the years British Columbia has distinguished itself by building one of the best-performing public school systems in the country. The Conference Board of Canada ranked British Columbia as a top performing province in 2014. When compared internationally, we beat out Norway, Denmark, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia and Switzerland. Only Finland and Japan perform better than our province does in terms of overall outcomes.

It’s one of the reasons why British Columbia is a top destination for international students who want to enroll in our secondary school system. They want to improve their English and have a better chance of getting into a first-class college or university after graduation. We also boast some of the most impressive graduation rates in the country. Between 2001 and 2017, the provincial rate for all students increased from 76.5 to 83.9 percent. The graduation rate for aboriginal students increased from 42 to 63 percent. And while much work still needs to be done in this area, it represents a 48.9 percent increase in First Nations graduates over a 16-year period.

As we head back to school, as the official critic for education and as a teacher myself, I want to thank all the educators who have been part of this success and who have devoted themselves to shaping the minds and lives of our youth.