BC Education Plan: Where For Art Thou?October 24, 2014
With schools back in session, some now wonder what has become of the BC Education Plan. It was announced with fanfare three years ago, but there’s still much confusion about what the changes will mean for students and when they will take effect.
The conversation was interrupted by the teacher-government contract dispute and has yet to resume in any meaningful way.
The promise in 2011 was this: “Under BC’s Education Plan, our system will be more flexible, dynamic and adaptable to better prepare students. A more personalized* approach to learning is already happening in schools around the province. Now we want all B.C. students to share in these changes.”
But there’s been little evidence of progress, apart from the draft K-9 curriculum that was posted online last spring for public comment. While that was a significant development, it is only one part of the BC Education Plan.
What’s happened to the rest?
The Education Ministry says teacher teams will begin drafting a new Grade 10-12 curriculum during this school year. But there’s no date for implementation of any of the new curriculum.
Rod Allen, one of the ministry’s superintendents of learning, has said teachers may begin using it whenever they see fit. But as the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) has noted on several occasions, there’s been no mention of resources to help teachers make the transition.
In addition to curriculum reform and personalized learning, the BC Education Plan promises changes to the graduation program and student assessment.
Regarding the latter, the ministry has stated that student learning must be communicated to parents in more meaningful ways. It also says provincial assessment will remain vital “but the tools will need to adapt to the changes in the curriculum.” It created an advisory group in spring 2013 to make recommendations about assessment practices but it’s released no progress reports.
The BC Education Plan was unusually quiet on Twitter for six weeks after it was lambasted in September by some teachers for posting about the strike, including one tweet that said: “Teachers deserve a fair wage increase but it needs to be affordable.”
During this lull in the discussion, the BCTF issued a paper calling for a broader public debate about the purpose of education before the province proceeds with a major shift in direction.
The paper, written by the union’s Charlie Naylor, mentions the apparent stall in the BC Education Plan, saying “the minimal level of implementation suggests that transformation is easier to announce than to deliver.”
Naylor says the changes promised in the plan were also touted by other provincial education ministries back in 2011, but now the movement is losing steam.
That may be the case in B.C. too, where more emphasis is being placed on trades training, he adds.
“The BC Education Plan appears to be in a precarious position,” he writes. “With no apparent funds for implementation support, the optimistic view of imminent system transformation . . . may suggest two quite distinct factions in the government and ministry levels – one, which assumes the move towards transformation and the Education Plan is still viable and in progress, and the other, which appears to be rapidly gaining dominance, appears to have a much more prosaic view of what the public education system should deliver: graduates with skills required by industry and commerce.”
The question that must drive any educational transformation is “why do we educate?”Naylor says. Preparing students for work is one reason but not the only one.
“This paper makes the case that we need a wider public debate on the purposes of British Columbia’s public education system. Such a debate might better inform how much of a system’s focus should be preparation for employment, and what the nature of employment might be in the years to come.
“But it also makes the case that education is about so much more than preparation for work. It’s also about the nature of our connections and relationships with each other and with the planet on which we live. It’s about how we create and sustain the capacity to recognize and build on our population’s diversity as an asset to create a harmonious multi-cultural and democratic society. The purposes of education include grander and more important concepts than the narrow frame which is currently being developed.”
Find details about the BC Education Plan here.
*To better understand what is meant by personalized learning, take a look at a recent blog post by West Vancouver superintendent Chris Kennedy.
I am a guest blogger for BCCPAC and do not speak for the organization.