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Teachers and school board juggle new curriculum

Guiding framework for studies still needed

Curriculum changes made by the BC Ministry of Education are being rolled out too fast, according to Powell River education officials.

The ministry announced a new concept-based curriculum in September. Despite kindergarten through grade nine teachers being mandated to use the new curriculum next September, there is no word yet on guidelines and framework for its implementation, say Powell River District Teachers’ Association and school board officials.

“Rather than just letting every teacher fend for themselves the framework will decide the process for delivering the curriculum and the overall headings,” said Ken Holley, president of the association.

For Holley, the quick mandate is related to the ministry wanting to change the curricula before the upcoming provincial election. Jay Yule, Powell River School Board 47 superintendent, agreed this curriculum change has been more rapid than in previous years.

“This has been a short timeline,” said Yule. “In the past there has been a bit more time to roll out the curriculum.”

While the ministry has set aside $1 million for 10 hours of in-service training on the new curriculum, scheduling the training has been delayed in anticipation of the framework, which is expected "in the weeks to come," according to a ministry statement.

According to Holley, waiting for the framework also delays teacher training, possibly pushing it back until after Christmas.

“Teachers don’t want to wait until next year to get organized,” said Holley. “What the curricula expects is a big shift from rote learning that demands a big mind-shift from teachers, parents and students.”

In addition to a shift in the new curriculum, which includes more first nations content, it will also require extra preparation time and place greater demands on teachers, said Holley.

“Teachers get paid for a six-hour day,” said Holley. “The new curriculum will require at least a couple of additional hours of prep time per day, not counting what teachers need to take home.”

It’s a case of the ministry expecting to do more with less, said Holley. School board chair Jeanette Scott also has concerns about the the ministry’s funding for the new curriculum.

“I certainly support all the innovations that are there,” said Scott, “but I don’t think there is appropriate funding to really do it properly.”

Powell River school board earmarked an additional $100,000 this year and next in support of helping teachers learn the new curriculum.

“The board is pleased that this school district has sufficient surplus to provide some extra funding to support teachers in the implementation of the new curricula,” said Scott. “Many other school boards don’t have this ability.”

However, Scott maintains her reservations about how quickly the curriculum will be implemented, and how it could be done across the whole district, never mind the province.

“Imagining that there will be widespread adoption of the changes within the next couple of school years is not realistic,” she said.