Province to scrap controversial BCeSIS system
News that the Ministry of Education plans to scrap its problematic British Columbia enterprise Student Information System (BCeSIS) was greeted with a mixture of kudos and criticism Monday.
The announcement was made following the release of a review of the system by consultant Gartner Inc. in which it recommended that it be replaced.
The $89-million provincewide system was created as a way of keeping students' records in one place to make it easier to keep track of them when they move between districts and for those districts to share the students' information.
"The current system is meeting the basic educational needs of the province’s schools, districts and the ministry," the Gartner report said. "However, schools are not taking advantage of all of the functions the system has to offer and as a consequence, it is not delivering the full functional needs that exist nor is it well positioned to meet the future needs of education within B.C."
The system has been the subject of numerous complaints by teachers and school administrators that it was prone to crashes and it was hard to access.
"I creates more work than probably doing it by hand," said Burnaby school board chair Larry Hayes, recalling the feedback he's received.
While he believes such a system is necessary, "unfortunately, this particular system that was implemented didn't work the way it should. It was certainly a waste of valuable resources."
Greg Frank, Burnaby school district's secretary-treasurer, said the system has been in place in Burnaby for about four years during which time it was required to pay about $260,000 annually to use it.
He confirmed that the system crashed during school start-up last September when it wasn't able to handle the load of many people trying to use it at the same time. However, he added, improvements were made so that the system has worked much better this year.
The province is aiming to have a new system in place by 2014. The Gartner report states that BCeSIS "should be capable of supporting the current and short term needs of the province for the next three years."
It couldn't come soon enough for Burnaby-Deer Lake NDP MLA Kathy Corrigan, who heard from numerous teachers and administrators "expressing huge frustration" over the system during her time as a Burnaby school trustee.
"The report commissioned by the provincial government has essentially said that it's a colossal waste of money, taxpayers' money, that could have gone to teachers or playgrounds."
Corrigan recalled hearing complaints of BCeSIS crashing repeatedly, being hard to get onto and being very slow and cumbersome to work with. It also took excessive amounts of teachers' and administrators' time away from the work they're supposed to be doing.
"That's $100 million down the drain," she said, questioning whether the government did their due diligence before purchasing the system.
"From early on we knew we were going to have to be paying for the privilege of providing data to the government," she said of BCeSIS's $10 per student fee districts pay each year.
She noted it's similar to the money already cash-strapped school districts pay to use the computer system that calculates how much they need to pay in carbon offsets.
"They were told you had to basically provide the stick that you're going to hit yourself with."
The $260,000 Burnaby pays each year "is a pretty significant amount of money for a system that doesn't work," Corrigan said.