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

Port Alberni cyclist collides with passing car

Cyclist received minor injuries

Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations receive grants to bring ancestors’ remains home

Grants are part of the Royal B.C. Museum’s new repatriation program

Get ready for a week of sunshine across Vancouver Island

Environment Canada is forecasting temperatures in the high teens all this week

North Island Tour De Rock rider Benjamin Leah leads team to Port Hardy

“You don’t have issues and problems when you look at these kids and how much they’re going through.”

Alberni’s McLean Mill Society looking for a new direction

Society held a public input meeting at historic site

Video: Flyers new mascot ‘Gritty’ a bearded, googly-eyed terror

The Philadelphia Flyers unveiled their new mascot Monday, and as one would expect of the team that gave us the “Broad Street Bullies,” he’s far from cuddly.

Harvest Moon to light up B.C. skies with an ‘autumn hue’

It’s the first moon after the autumn equinox

Hockey league gets $1.4M for assistance program after Humboldt Broncos crash

Program will help players, families, coaches and volunteers after the shock of the deadly crash

Canada has removed six out of 900 asylum seekers already facing U.S. deportation

Ottawa had said the ‘overwhelming majority’ had been removed

North Island Midget Eagles bit by Alberni Valley Bulldogs, hammer Nanaimo Clippers

It was a bit of an up and down rollercoaster ride of a weekend for the North Island Midget Eagles.

Appeal pipeline decision but consult Indigenous communities, Scheer says

The federal appeals court halted the Trans Mountain expansion last month

Hack sends malicious emails from Alberni School District

Tofino and Ucluelet residents urged not to click on attachment.

B.C. electric vehicle subsidy fund drains faster than expected

Province adds another $10 million to incentive fund

Most Read