British Columbia is set to roll out a new ‘flexible’ school curriculum, moving towards ‘knowledge and deep understanding’ from ‘memory and recall’ says the Ministry of Education.
The new school modules will take off in a week from now across the region and emphasize individual interests and passions of each child. Communication, thinking, and individual and social competency are at the center of the redesigned curriculum, which will be executed from kindergarten through Grade 9. The ministry explains that the new curriculum aims to encourage ‘deep understanding and applications of knowledge’ rather than ‘memory and recall.’
“We want to make sure that [learning] is not just the sitting down and the memorization” said education Minister Mike Bernier. He additionally added that the province wishes to give students free reign to explore different topics, ones they’re interested in while still teaching the basics including reading, writing and arithmetic.
“Instead of being as prescriptive on a certain topic, why not give the opportunity for the student to pick the topic?” said Bernier. “The end goal will still be the same: they can learn something they’re passionate about.” The ministry of education explains that there “is no requirement for educators to organize classrooms, schools or instruction in this manner,” including handing the power to in B.C. teachers to think of creative approaches to change their curriculum to better suit the requirements of the students. Bernier says a $7 million investment has been put in place to train and equip teachers to make changes to the new curriculum.
Langley educator Adam Walders was one of the members required in building up the new curriculum. In fall 2014, his school steered toward better approaches which ultimately made their way into the amended curriculum, including changing learning modules that coordinated students’ interests. “The tangible differences really came up in how we went about planning, and choosing topics to engage kids in, he added. Walders says a striking example was when students came back to class after Christmas break and he saw them humming around a recent earthquake. He exploited their interest, and built up a four-week unit on earthquakes in view of a pool of questions the students had assembled, replacing a lesson that he initially had arranged.
He affirms that by changing the focus of the class, students are able to come out with a deep understanding of the scientific method. “It was much more focused on scientific thinking, such as testing hypotheses and analyzing the results of experiments,” Walders says.
Changing things up
Retired B.C. teacher Julie Gleadow says modifying the class curriculum to profit by students’ interests isn’t anything new. “Classrooms have been aware of teachable moments for a very, very long time — certainly in all of my teaching career,” said Gleadow.
“The only people who will actually be delivering this are teachers, so I do hope that teachers are given less of a classroom load — and lots of support for students who have special needs,” Gleadow concluded.