With the web putting information at children’s fingertips, Bulkley Valley School District superintendent Chris van der Mark said the new B.C. elementary school curriculum is less about what you know and more about how you use your knowledge.
The Ministry of Education this month announced its new curriculum for students in Kindergarten to Grade 9 as part of a three year transition across all grades.
The new framework is designed to be more flexible and provide students with more personalized learning experiences, allowing them to learn in the context of their own interests.
In addition to teaching students the fundamentals of literacy and numeracy, it will ask them to apply their knowledge through collaboration, critical thinking and communication.
Although the new curriculum will not be formally introduced until September 2016, teachers have the option of using it this fall in preparation for the change.
van der Mark said the new curriculum would replace a content-based framework that was a “mile wide and an inch deep”.
He said it would bring teaching up to speed with the modern world and give students skills and knowledge that can be applied in real-life situations.
“There are a lot of things in play that are gearing, almost as a society, far more towards big ideas, towards critical thinking, towards communication — really broad-serving skills that aren’t about just simply what you know because you or I can know anything at the click of a button right now if we need to know it,” he said.
“The real challenge is what can you do with what you know.”
van der Mark believes more students will thrive under the new curriculum because it was more flexible and personalized to a student’s individual needs.
Although it remains focused on literacy and numeracy, he said the new system will be more engaging for more students because it gives them freedom to learn in a way that interests them.
“We have a system that really does look well upon compliance as it’s set up,” said van der Mark.
“If you’re a child X who really is compliant and is able to sort of navigate and jump through hoops according to this, regardless of whether you are interested or not you are simply compliant.
“That might not exactly prepare you for what’s coming … more life in general.”
He said it was too early to tell if the Ministry would need to employ more teachers to deliver the more personalized curriculum.
van der Mark predicts the change will be felt more in Grade 10-12 classrooms because elementary level teaching was already more concept-based.
Bulkley Valley Teachers Union president Ilona Weiss welcomed the shift because it allowed teachers to provide a more individualized learning experience for students.
“I think it will give students more of an opportunity to explore what they are interested in, more in-depth,” she said.
“There is less learning outcomes so you can go into what you want to learn about more in-depth and then you can personalize that for students so I think that’s a really good thing.”
Although the curriculum is optional in 2015, Weiss believes a lot of teachers will choose to introduce it.
However, she noted the Ministry of Education would need to invest in training to ensure a smooth transition.
“This will be the year where they will really have to provide some information and training for teachers so that teachers are ready to use the new curriculum next school year,” she said.
Coast Mountain School District superintendent Katherine McIntosh said in a statement teachers would be supported during the transition.
“The new curriculum provides engaging opportunities for students to go deeper with their learning based on their passions and interests,” she said.
“Our schools and district will support our teachers with their implementation during the year.
“We are excited about the changes coming to all levels of our system.”
CMSD manages schools in the Hazelton area.