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

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Karl and Stephanie Ann Johanson were thrilled to spot a pair of Sandhill Cranes in the Panama Flats this month, an unusual appearance for such birds. (Photo by Stephanie Ann Johanson)
WATCH: Sandhill cranes an unusual, joyful sight in Saanich parkland

The birds don’t often touch down in the south of the Island

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

(Victoria Cool Aid Society/Facebook)
Victoria food drive aims to feed those also struggling with housing

Quadra Village furniture store hosting drive-thru event Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Victoria police are asking for witnesses who might have information about this tricycle that was stolen in downtown Victoria on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Police seek witnesses after downtown Victoria company’s tricycle stolen

The three-wheeler was taken from the 2100-block of Store Street on Thursday

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Freighters have becomd abundant in the Trincomali Channel on the east side of Thetis Island.
Nanaimo ponders taking on waste from nearby anchored freighters

Vancouver-based Tymac petitioning the Regional District of Nanaimo to accept waste at its landfill

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

Most Read