Province to review grad requirements

Assessment would be more on skills, favoured by Maple Ridge superintendent

  • Nov. 6, 2012 11:00 a.m.

The days of high school students regurgitating facts and figures to prove their knowledge of a given subject may be on the way out.

The province’s review of high school graduation requirements could result in reducing the significance of test scores in determining if a student should graduate, instead moving towards a more subjective system that focuses on assessing students’ skills.

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District superintendent Jan Unwin said she would like to see less content-based assessment, and more skills-based assessment.

“As a system, we go with what is easy to measure,” she said. “It’s easier to stay the same, but if we want students to be more in line with what we want our educated citizens to be, we have to change.”

Moving away from a content-based assessment makes sense, given how technology has reduced the importance of rote memorization.

“Memorizing facts and figures isn’t as important as it once was, now that we all have smartphones in our hands,” says Unwin. “What is important, is how [students] apply that knowledge.”

A curriculum that focusses more on teaching skills like creative thinking, cooperation, self-motivation, and decision-making will give students the skills necessary to be successful in the future.

“If that’s what we are trying to do, then our graduation [requirements] should be nurturing those skills,” said Unwin. “And right now, they aren’t. There’s a disconnect … and public education needs to shift.”

One example of what a revamped secondary school curriculum could look like is the school district’s new remedial summer school program.

This past summer, the district experimented with an education model that saw subjects integrated with project-based assignments developed, in part, by the students.

The summer school achieved a success rate of close to 100 per cent for the students taking part in the remedial Grade 8 and 9 program.

“This is the future of education,” Unwin said in response to the program’s success at a board meeting earlier this year.”

The Ministry of Education undergoes the graduation requirements review every 10 years or so.

This review is part of the B.C. Liberal government’s education plan, which aims to support personalized learning. A Ministry of Education spokesperson said the review is still in its initial stages, and will take years to complete.

“There’s no set timeline for implementing this,” the spokesperson said.

Unwin estimates any changes that come about from the review likely won’t take effect until 2014 or 2015.

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