COLUMN: Education changes will prove costly

Reporter's Viewpoint

My first thought when reading the press release on the province’s plan to “transform education so that every student can excel and thrive in a rapidly evolving world” was, “Where is the money?”

The B.C. Education Plan, announced earlier this fall, lays out the province’s vision for the future of the system.

While I agree with the general direction the province wishes to move, change and transformation almost always requires investment, and funding is not mentioned yet.

The plan is more like a framework with few more details offered than when the province first started talking about it last year.

Education Minister George Abbott is calling for a better link between what students are learning in classrooms with their experiences outside of school.

That is certainly in line with what students told me last year when I interviewed several on the topic of personalized learning – defined as tailoring education to individual interests and needs while ensuring students get the skills they need to succeed in the real world.

These students told me they failed to see the connection between what they are learning in math class and what they plan to do with their lives.

They told me many of their peers struggle to learn in the traditional classroom setting, where a teacher lectures at them from the front of the class.

The B.C. Education Plan consists of five key elements: personalized learning for every student, quality teaching and learning, flexibility and choice, high standards, and learning empowered by technology.

Personalized learning is intended to engage all of those students who are currently tuned out – or only half tuned-in – by allowing them more freedom to pursue their individual interests and passions while still ensuring they learn basic core skills.

This is vital if the education system hopes to engage students and keep them in school.

It’s important to note that Nanaimo educators have been working on some of these concepts for years, including distance learning, outreach programs and programs that allow students to earn credits for post-secondary education programs or work experience in a trade.

I’ve heard many complaints about the B.C. curriculum being too unwieldy, that teachers sometimes struggle to get through all of it and that some students feel overwhelmed.

With Google, memorizing dates and facts becomes unnecessary; what is more important is teaching kids how to analyze all the information they have access to with a critical eye, problem solve and work well with others.

As for a call for regular performance evaluation sessions and teacher mentoring, the local union says teachers have been asking for the former for some time and already do the latter.

But this is definitely going to take money in release time for teachers and administrators.

I also support the emphasis on technology in the classroom, although this could lead to unequal access to education, as some students have cellphones and laptops, but others don’t.

Nanaimo trustees are considering a plan to revamp technology in schools, but the district could have to cut more than $5 million out of its budget next year to balance the books, so spending extra money on upgrading technology in schools may be out of the question.

A systematic change is definitely overdue. But the devil is in the details, and the plan is short on those.

The website gives a list of actions underway to develop the plan and an estimated timeline for completion of each action. To read more – and tell the province what you think – please go to www.bcedplan.ca.

reporter@nanaimobulletin.com

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