(FILE PHOTO) This is the first year that B.C.’s re-designed curriculum will be fully implemented from kindergarten to Grade 12, notes guest columnist.

OPINION: New curriculum responds to rapidly changing world

President of B.C. School Trustees Association says focus is on improving student achievement

BY STEPHANIE HIGGINSON

This week, students across British Columbia will walk through the doors of their local schools.

This is the first year B.C.’s redesigned curriculum will be fully implemented from kindergarten through to Grade 12. The new curriculum changes how and what our children learn to match the evolving needs of our communities. For some, the difference between the way they were taught and how today’s children are taught might lead to concern that their kids are not receiving a robust education.

Did you know that B.C. has one of the top-performing education systems in the world? B.C. students earned the top spot for reading, came second in science and sixth in math in the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Seventy-two countries and all 10 Canadian provinces participated in the assessment. B.C.’s education system is not only doing a good job educating students, it’s leading the world. In response to our success, the OECD hosted an international education conference in Vancouver this past May so that educators from other countries could come to B.C. to study our highly successful education system.

If we’re doing so well, why change anything? Our world is growing more complex every day. B.C.’s redesigned curriculum will give students the skills, knowledge and competencies they’ll need to succeed in the future. The new curriculum has three elements: content, curricular competencies, and big ideas. Content is what students are expected to know, curricular competencies are what students are expected to do and big ideas are what students are expected to understand. It may look different, but literacy and numeracy remain the curriculum’s core foundation. Additional focus on creative and critical thinking, communication, and personal and social responsibility will create educated citizens who are able to contribute to a rapidly changing world and shape a better future for us all.

B.C.’s school trustees, and the boards of education they serve on, help districts stay focused on improving student achievement. Trustees work at the local level with the goal of ensuring every region has access to an education system that reflects the needs of their community. Similarly, the new curriculum embraces place-based learning, emphasizing Indigenous perspectives and languages, as well as considering a student’s identity and their responsibilities to themselves and their community.

If you feel concerned about what your child is learning, the best action you can take is to develop a positive relationship with the classroom teacher. Our teachers are expertly trained educators who can reassure you that your children are learning in a way that will prepare them to be thoughtful, contributing citizens.

New ideas take time to get comfortable with. But just as we expect fields like medicine, law and engineering to evolve, so too should we expect our education system to keep pace with changing needs.

Public education in B.C. continues to improve by implementing the best in educational research and practice in our classrooms to prepare students to meet the challenges they will face in an increasingly complex world.

Stephanie Higginson is president of the British Columbia School Trustees Association and a school trustee for Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools.

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