University of Oregon professor Yong Zhao said he failed the foundation skills test in the Chinese village where he was born

University of Oregon professor Yong Zhao said he failed the foundation skills test in the Chinese village where he was born

B.C. teachers adapting, but not union

Canadian schools rank near the top in performance and spending, but needs are changing rapidly and experiments are coming

VICTORIA – The B.C. education ministry put on a forum on the future of education last week, bringing together public and private school leaders with experts from around the world.

I watched the proceedings via webcast from the Wosk Centre for Dialogue in Vancouver, which gives you a hint about the forces pressing in on our century-old industrial model of schooling.

First up was Andreas Schleicher, on video link from his office in Paris, where he is director of education and skills for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. He began with the international problem of people coming out of university who can’t find jobs, amid a skills shortage.

Schleicher said this is happening today because, “it’s not what you know but what you can do with what you know.” Some education systems are adapting better than others as the value of merely passing on facts has declined.

He said these days, almost any student can pass any multiple-choice test if they have a smartphone. The question for parents is what to do “if you want your child to be smarter than a smartphone.”

The OECD runs international testing that consistently ranks B.C. and Canada among the best schools in the world, and Schleicher described how that testing has evolved to keep up.

But our progress in the past 10 years has tended to be slower than some Asian countries, despite B.C. being on the “high end of investment” in education. He warned against the trap of the industrial school model, “pouring money in” to “do more of the same.”

Some of the best results emerging from a decade of digitally-driven globalization have been achieved through innovations that were financed through bigger class sizes, Schleicher said.

This was too much for one B.C. Teachers’ Federation representative in the audience, who introduced herself as someone who spent the last transformational decade working for the union, not in a classroom. She disputed the OECD’s financial calculations, lecturing some of the world’s top economists that based on “spending power,” B.C. schools are cash starved.

She followed this with the laundry list of BCTF demands that hasn’t changed in 40 years – smaller classes, more prep time, more money.

The keynote speaker was Yong Zhao, University of Oregon professor of educational measurement, who gave a highly entertaining critique of standardized testing and creativity-crushing drills of the basics. (You can find a video archive here.)

Yong sparked a lively discussion about the need for foundation skills, which he and others agreed remain vital to success. The issue seems to be how to instil those basics while avoiding the disengagement of students who see school as irrelevant to their lives.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender announced at the forum that the province is about to unveil new curriculum that moves toward individual learning for all students. And he said there will be a series of experiments conducted at yet-to-be-identified B.C. schools to pioneer new models of learning.

BCTF president Jim Iker sat stoically through the proceedings, where speakers described integrating community groups and businesses directly with schools. That’s underway here, with trades training in particular.

Iker’s record on adaptation is clear from his own career. The only school where he actually taught was in the northwest B.C. village of Topley, and it closed in 2010 due to a long-term decline in rural students.

By 2001 Iker had left the classroom to work for the Burns Lake teacher union local, which the BCTF continues to staff eight years after that school district and others disappeared through amalgamation.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

 

 

Just Posted

AW Neill Elementary School in Port Alberni. (NEWS FILE PHOTO)
SD70 chooses new name for AW Neill School in Port Alberni

New name honours Nuu-chah-nulth Peoples’ connection to region

Douglas Holmes, current Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District chief administrative officer, is set to take on that position at the Regional District of Nanaimo come late August. (Submitted photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo’s next CAO keen to work on building partnerships

Douglas Holmes to take over top administrator role with RDN this summer

Ron MacDonald fields questions at a news conference in Halifax on Sept. 27, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Finding ‘comfortable’ indigenous monitor tough task in Tofino-area shooting death

Julian Jones case hampered by difficulty finding a civilian comfortable with privacy protocols

Port Alberni RCMP officer in command Insp. Eric Rochette presents longtime community policing volunteer Louie Aumair with a OIC appreciation certificate. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni RCMP honour longtime volunteer

First responders receive support from broader community

The Dock+ is located on Harbour Road in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
PROGRESS 2021: Port Alberni’s food hub still growing a year later

The Dock hopes to open a retail store on Alberni’s busy waterfront

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Christian Eriksen in stable condition, Euro 2020 match resumes

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read