It was a full house at the Houston Secondary School library on Nov. 3, as interested parents, teachers, and residents attended the School District 54 (SD54) education forum to be informed about the redesigned changes in the school curriculum.
“We don’t use the word ‘new’ curriculum, we use ‘redesigned’ because it’s not new,” said Chris van der Mark,Superintendent of Schools for SD54.
Van der Mark explained that the B.C. Education plan is designed around core competencies such as communication, creativeand critical thinking, positive personal and cultural identity, personal awareness and responsibility and social responsibility.
Over the years this has developed to reflect the times as what we know changes.
The elimination of letter grades has been a subject of unease for many people. It was explained that the goal is to steerstudents away from working towards a certain percentage, and instead have them work towards bettering themselves andtheir learning.
Still, some form of communicating to parents the progress of their child is expected. A myraid of ways of doing this is beingexplored from written feedback on assignments, phone calls, emails, and meetings with the teachers.
Twain Sullivan in currently the only school in Houston that has implemented the no letter grade system, but by nextSeptember McDiarmind foresees all the schools in Houston transitioning. However, anytime a parent wishes to have a lettergrade report, one will be issued to them at their request.
Another redesign in the curriculum is the removal of grade 10 provincial exams. Part of the reason is to allow teachers topull away from feeding facts to students in order to pass the exam, and step towards going in depth through dialogue anddiscussion about the content.
“When they put the social 11 test in, it killed the course. Because you couldn’t get deep into debate about government. Andsome of the stuff about human geography is brilliant. And now you’re burning through it because you need to get thefactoids into the kids for the test, “commented van der Mark.
Now students can enjoy the learning and the process.
Some things will still remain in place as check points, like a literacy and numeracy assessment which is currently beingdesigned.
Due to the challenges of living in a small district, ensuring equity of opportunity is a major priority and difficulty for SD54.Duplicating programs doesn’t work because of the lack of staff and students to fill the programs. However, by having anadjustable timetable and access to transportation provided by SD54, it has become possible for students to study thecourses they want.
“Kids can take a trade course, they can go to college, they can come in and do environmental monitor. We have kids fromHouston going to in to Smithers to do environmental monitor. We have kids from Smithers busing out to do the electricalprogram here. So by creating that flexibility, we increase choice for kids in programs,” commented van der Mark.
Various courses are being introduced next year like hair dressing, an aesthetician course, and a health professionalprogram where students will work with the Smithers Bulkley Valley District Hospital.
“They’ll be spending time with physiotherapists, doctors, and nurses. It’s an introduction to the whole health care field,”explained Mike McDiarmid, Assistant Superintendent for SD54.
As what we know evolves, so does education and the way in which it is delivered. That is the slogan upon which the Ministryof Education builds its structure.
To find more information about the changes in the redesigned school curriculum visit http://curriculum.gov.bc.ca