Fewer provincial exams concern teachers

Nanaimo educators have some concerns about the Education Ministry's decision to eliminate provincial exams for many senior courses and change the criteria for scholarships.

Nanaimo educators have some concerns about the Education Ministry’s decision to eliminate provincial exams for many senior courses and change the criteria for scholarships.

The province is dropping optional final exams for Grade 12 students because the number of senior students writing the tests has fallen significantly – about 80 per cent now opt out.

In 2004, the province added a number of required exams in Grades 10 and 11 courses and many of the Grade 12 exams became optional. Since then, post-secondary institutions changed their admissions criteria and no longer use the optional exams.

But the criteria for provincial scholarships was awarded based on students’ performance in required and optional Grade 12 exams. With fewer students writing the tests, fewer scholarships were awarded. About $2.5 million in scholarships went unclaimed.

New scholarship criteria will focus on required exams in Grades 10, 11 and 12 courses.

Courses with required provincial exams are Science 10, Apprenticeship and Workplace Mathematics 10, Foundations of Mathematics and Pre-calculus 10, Social Studies 11, B.C. First Nations Studies 12, Civic Studies 11, English 10, English 10 First Peoples, Français langue premiere 10, English 12, English 12 First Peoples, Français langue premiere 12 and Communications 12.

Derek DeGear, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association, said the move is a step backward.

At the Grade 10 level, teachers should focus on instilling a love of learning in students through hands-on activities and assignments, rather than memorization and test preparation, he said.

A Grade 10 student is just starting to think about the future and learning should be fun to draw them in, whereas a Grade 12 student who wants to get into an engineering program is not only motivated and keen to do well on tests, but also in need of practise for a heavy testing and memorization program at university, said DeGear.

“I don’t know why you would take away that opportunity,” he said.

Assistant superintendent Chris Southwick said she’s heard some concerns about including Grade 10 exams in the provincial scholarship program.

“Some kids aren’t quite ready yet to know what the implications are,” she said. “It’s really too early to tell the impact on students because we don’t have all the details.”

Southwick said final exams, which students will still write, depending on the teacher and the course, are just one form of assessing students and educators are putting more emphasis on formative assessment – using learning activities and assessments to adapt teaching strategies to meet the needs of individual learners.