02/19/2014 12:24 EST | Updated 04/21/2014 05:59 EDT

Review could bring changes for next school year: Nova Scotia education minister

HALIFAX - A review of Nova Scotia's education system could result in changes as early as the next school year, Education Minister Karen Casey said Wednesday as she announced the appointment of a former lieutenant governor to lead the exercise.

Casey named Myra Freeman as head of the panel that will look at everything from the curriculum and technology in classrooms to how long students should be in school.

She said the broad examination will take in all grades from Primary to 12 and panel consultations will start in April.

"What we're looking at is what we deliver and how we deliver it and it will touch on a variety of things and concerns I am hearing," Casey said when asked about possible changes to the academic year. "There's nothing off the table."

Freeman, who served as lieutenant governor from 2000 to 2006 and was a teacher for more than 25 years, will work with five other panel members to gather input from people across the province on the system's strengths and weaknesses.

It's expected they will use online surveys and in-person consultations to gather feedback.

Freeman said it's a wide-ranging undertaking that could result in thousands of submissions covering a multitude of issues, all of which have to be submitted to the minister by October.

"We may get 5,000 responses. We don't know but I don't think we're afraid of that," she said. "We just know it's a big bite out of an apple."

Gin Yee, chairman of the Halifax Regional School Board, said he wasn't concerned about the scope of the review, which is expected to cost about $100,000.

"I think it's necessary to do an end-to-end review," he said. "If it improves student achievement — if the answer is to change the calendar year, increase the school day — if that's required to do that, then let's do it."

It is the first time in 25 years that the province has conducted such a review, which is expected to include short and long-term changes that could be introduced late in 2014. Casey said most of the proposed changes would take effect the following year.

The panel is made up of a retired teacher, a school advisory council member, a parent and a Rhodes Scholar. A partners' advisory group consisting of teachers, school boards and universities, among others, will assist the panel.