With fewer exams, new BC school curriculum focuses on what's "important"

May 29 2020, 4:37 pm
This article was written for Daily Hive by Charlie Kenna as part of a collaboration with Handsworth Secondary School.

If you have a child in high school, or are a current student, you have most likely noticed some changes with the course matter.

These changes have been intentional, all being part of a carefully put together new curriculum. The K-9 new curriculum was implemented in 2016, Grade 10 in 2018, and Grades 11-12 was mandated in 2019.

The BC Ministry of Education says the new curriculum implements a “concept based approach to learning” and a “focus on the development of (core) competencies.” They wanted to move towards more personalized learning and away from memorization and rote learning in order to give students skills needed for the 21st century workplace.

But what does this mean? What do staff and students think about this change? And most importantly, how will this way of new learning support kids when entering post secondary school or the workforce?

I decided to query/survey stakeholders in my community to find out. I mainly received positive feedback about the new curriculum from teachers. One said it was “more practical” while a principal referred to it as “more flexible,” and said it “focused on what is important.” She even noted that it is working better while facing the current circumstances with COVID-19.

The only negative comment came from one teacher that said it is less specific.

The new curriculum is more general, offering more broad thinking skills. For example, Grade 12 English now has a section on “gaining insight into the diverse factors that shape identity.” The only cost of this is the time it takes away from classic skills such as reading, writing, and representing.

Students seem to love the new course matter, at least compared to the old material, and it is easy to see why. The focus on big ideas makes the material feel more transferable to real life and an AP Economics teacher told me it better prepares students for their first year of university, at least in his subject matter.

There are fewer exams and more projects, which students tend to prefer. For example, the mandatory English 12 provincial exam became extinct as of the 2019-2020 school year. This year’s graduates will be the first in more than 30 years who won’t have to write the three-hour multiple composition mammoth in June.

The change seems exciting. For a lot of students, school can feel pointless. This broader approach to learning opens itself up to students, who otherwise may have not found any interest.

The BC Ministry of Education notes that the world is constantly changing. New information is discovered often, and students will have to compete. Being equipped with stronger thinking skills developed through “deeper learning” will help young people navigate this chaotic world.

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