The B.C. education ministry is planning a major overhaul of the K-12 curriculum to focus less on facts and more on big ideas.
A discussion paper posted online (www.bced.gov.bc.ca/irp/transforming_curriculum.php) as schools were preparing to welcome students back today says the current curriculum has too many objectives, is highly prescriptive and is overly concerned with facts rather than concepts. [It emphasizes] what they learn over how they learn, which is exactly the opposite of what modern education should strive to do, the paper says.
Although efforts to modernize the curriculum have been underway for months, the discussion paper marks the first time the ministry has produced a document for broad public review. It was posted late Friday at the start of the holiday weekend and was followed by a ministry tweet saying the ideas will be promoted during the coming week as the new school year gets underway.
The curriculum describes what students are expected to learn and offers the promise of a similar education for all, the paper says.
The challenge, however, is to ensure it actually enables rather than impedes an effective educational experience for B.C. students. This recognition is the impetus for the work now underway to dramatically overhaul B.C.s curriculum.
The review began in November after Education Minister George Abbott announced the creation of the B.C. Education Plan, which is intended to modernize the education system and encourage more personalized learning, also known as 21st-century learning. The ministry created a curriculum and assessment advisory group with members from major partner groups, including the B.C. School Superintendents Association, the B.C. Principals and Vice-Principals Association, the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) and universities.
The B.C. Teachers Federation was invited to attend but declined due to its 2011-12 job action. Union president Susan Lambert said she was disappointed the ministry had posted it before getting input from teachers. That action flies in the face of Abbotts comment last week that the government hopes to have a better relationship with the union this year than last year.
You have to have the voice of the profession [in a review of curriculum], she said.
Nevertheless, she said teachers have expressed concern for years about the heavy load of learning outcomes for each grade, especially in high schools.
The focus on learning to learn and thinking skills rather than rote learning is something we support.
The ministrys advisory committee held meetings with education partners, community members and independent school leaders during the spring to discuss possible changes. The main message that emerged was that schools need to focus on big ideas with a more flexible curriculum.
While there are pockets of innovation in B.C., a provincewide push is needed to truly transform schools, the report says.
The group says the curriculum should be simple, elegant and deep. The early grades must continue to emphasize literacy and numeracy, the middle grades should encourage inquiries and project-based learning, and the senior grades should offer students learning opportunities that capture their interests and help them make the transition to life after graduation.
Ideas arising from community consultations include allowing academic and non-academic (trades and technology) pathways to graduation and basing school completion on readiness rather than age. Further discussions on graduation requirements are planned for fall, with proposed changes expected to be announced in December, the paper says.
Throughout their school years, students should be encouraged to become competent in five areas: communications; critical thinking; creating thinking and innovation; personal responsibility and well-being; and social responsibility.
Those goals will be better described following research and consultation, the discussion paper says.
The advisory group is also calling for changes in the ways students are assessed, but says specific recommendations will have to wait until a new curriculum has been developed and graduation requirements identified.
Provincial assessments should continue in elementary and secondary grades, but details have yet to be determined and the discussion paper makes no mention of the controversial Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) -- the standardized tests in Grades 4 and 7 that are opposed by the BCTF.
The broad plan is not expected to be implemented during the coming school year or before the May provincial election. Abbott announced Thursday that he wont seek re-election and expects to be replaced as education minister during a cabinet shuffle this week.
Read more: www.vancouversun.com/news/plans+overhaul+curriculum+greater+emphasis+concepts+over+facts/7183847/story.html#ixzz25XZPufiT