“You won’t believe it, but my mom told me that I can go on the New York trip. She said that since this was my passion, they would support it.”
A grade 10 student recently shared this exciting news with her friends in the hallway outside my office. What was thrilling for me was to hear the words “my passion” and “support”. It had been one year since we had the privilege of hearing Sir Ken Robinson speak about the importance of finding our element, that unique place where our passions and our talents combine. He urged students, parents and educators to re-think education and to re-define models of schooling that had become antiquated. His powerful message has been well-received. The usage of the vocabulary necessary to reform education is becoming more common in schools and in boards of education. One needs only to look at the buzz created by the release of British Columbia’s Education Plan by the Ministry of Education.
The Plan identifies five main features for change:
- Personalised learning for every student
- Quality teaching and learning
- Flexibility and choice
- High standards
- Learning empowered by technology
These elements may be somewhat obvious, but their articulation is significant because it provides a framework to guide the change that is necessary in the way that schools function. As Sir Ken has pointed out, we cannot continue to have an educational system that was built in the age of the Industrial Revolution. The challenge, as put out by Sir Ken and the Ministry of Education, is: What are you doing to change the way we educate our children?
At the time of Minister of Education George Abbott’s announcement of the newly launched education plan website, I was sitting in a forum hosted by UBC on the future of education in Canada. The Canadian Council of Learning had released their report and the President of CCL, Dr. Paul Cappon, was speaking along with a panel of educators. While that report is a topic for a separate blog in itself, there were some key points that I took away, among which were:
- An important piece of personalisation is individualisation of assessment and feedback; teachers play a critical role here.
- The lack of ability to secure apprenticeships is creating a bottleneck.
So, what are the first changes that I am going to make as an educator and an administrator? I will actively work with teaching professionals to implement tools and systems that improve the individualisation of assessment and feedback. No longer should we tolerate standardised testing methods in our classrooms as the primary source of grading and reporting. Let’s provide our teachers with the resources and the time to communicate ongoing and effectively with their students.
Furthermore, I will seek meaningful internship opportunities. We need the private sector to come forward and personally invest in the learning of our students. I would like to see apprenticeship experiences in edutainment, the creative arts, global service, sustainability and resource management, as well as in the trades and in the service industries. These are but two of the areas in which I want to make change happen.
It is important to think outside of the box, but it is even more imperative now that we act outside of the box. What will you do to improve the way we educate?