The B.C. Ministry of Education on Friday announced it will invest $6 million into classroom computers and teacher training for coding as part of the sweeping new curriculum to be introduced this fall.
Teachers hope the same level of support will be available for all programs as the province revamps its K-12 education delivery system away from standardized testing toward a self-directed study model.
“There are good things in here, there’s no doubt,” said Norberta Heinrichs, president of the Mount Arrowsmith Teachers’ Association (MATA). “But we’re talking about a huge shift. It comes down to resourcing to give the teachers the tools they need.
“It’s not enough to just say, ‘here’s a new curriculum.’ The key element here is you want to have a successful rollout.”
The Ministry announced last month implementation of the new curriculum beginning this fall for grades K-9, with the curriculum for grades 10-12 arriving in 2017-18. It will cut back the controversial standardized tests from five to two — in core math and literacy — while progress in subjects like science, social studies and language arts will be assessed in the classroom.
“The new curriculum is designed to provide students with choice over the way they learn, developing and expanding their skill sets without abandoning the fundamental pillars of the three Rs,” said Doug Lauson, president of the Federation of Independent School Associations. “The personalized learning model uses technologies as tools to build and supplement the foundational content with creativity and innovation.”
Those technological tools are part of the concern of Heinrichs and her fellow teachers. She said local teachers have had an opportunity to test-drive the draft curriculum over the past two years, and often found their workload inadvertently increased.
“I explored Grade 8 science, and it’s very organic with what teachers do,” she said. “But the difficulty now is accessing resources that fit. There’s a lot of front-end loading for teachers to find those resources. There was no textbook and I had to search. It was very labour-intensive; imagine if you’re doing it for every course.”
The funding announced Friday is specific to the new computer coding portion of the curriculum, which all students will need to complete by the end of Grade 9.
Another new addition to the curriculum is Career Education, which will be required for graduation beginning in the 2017-18 school year. Students will continue to be required to complete 80 credit hours to earn their Dogwood diplomas, but the ministry said there will now be more paths to the Dogwood.
In subject areas where standardized tests have been eliminated, assessment and reporting of student progress will be done in the classroom. Heinrich said that should have little impact on local teachers and students.
“We already assess in the classroom,” she said. “That is something teachers do constantly, on an ongoing basis.”
The ministry touts the new curriculum as designed to better prepare students for in-demand careers in the coming years. A release from the ministry said it fits with the key goals of B.C.’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint, and said universities, colleges and trade schools were consulted during its development to ensure students have a seamless transition to post-secondary education and training.
“(This) is another positive step toward ensuring B.C.’s education system is reframed to meet the needs of students over the next 40 years, not the last 40 years,” said Teresa Rezanoff, president of the B.C. School Trustees Association.
The ministry said it invites public feedback on the new curriculum, including recommended changes. Parent engagement will begin this fall, though details have not been released on how that consultation will be implemented.
To see the new curriculum, visit https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca.