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Changes in BC education

by Marion Van Driel

Education in BC is undergoing a significant paradigm shift, with students being encouraged this school year to consider big ideas, and, rather than memorizing facts, they will evaluate information in its context to culture, world events, and relevancy. Primary and middle schools are implementing the new program this year, and by September 2017, high schools will be on board.

The new curriculum recognizes that in this information age, memorizing facts is redundant. The amount of information available to us today is staggering, currently doubling every nine months. One week of issues of The New York Times contains more information than was available to Shakespeare in his lifetime. Information taught in the first year of post-secondary sciences and technology courses often becomes obsolete by the time a student graduates.The key skill today is an ability to find relevant information and apply it appropriately.

Progressive Innovation

Superintendent of Richmond Christian Schools (RCS), Roger Grose, is excited about the progressive changes. “Instead of dictating to all the kids that ‘these are the absolutes you must learn’, topics are much broader. So rather than having to learn about Ancient Greece or Ancient Egypt, the topic will be, ‘An Ancient Civilization: How Did the Land Forms and Rivers Affect the Development of Culture?’ You can do that in Vancouver, in Toronto, in Seattle, or the cities along the Spice Trade route. Instead of learning (just) the facts, you’re asking the bigger questions. It’s much deeper, critical thinking.”

The updated curriculum follows closely on the heels of last year’s addition of a First Nations component to each school subject. The two work well together, according to Grose. “We have done First Nations people a disservice by typically leaving them in their teepees, wigwams and sweat lodges. What needs to be taught is their place in our culture today. How does this nation contribute to our society, and what are their obstacles and issues? What can we learn from that? How can we be inclusive, and how do we value their learning?”

Curriculum Goals

Communication: Using traditional methods and adding a digital media component. Learning ‘digital citizenship’ in using social media appropriately.

Thinking: Creative Thinking – Looking at new ideas that have value to the individual and others, and developing them to reality – from science to the arts. Critical Thinking – Making judgments based on reasoning, experience, and human thinking. Is the given information valid? Is it true? How can it be verified?

Personal and Social: Positive Personal and Cultural Identity – Understanding what shapes a person’s culture and how it validates the individual.  Personal Awareness and Responsibility – Self-management, respecting their own rights and those of others, tools to manage stress and persevere in difficult situations.

Social Responsibility: Students learn about interdependence with each other and the world, fostering empathy for others, healthy conflict resolution, and healthy relationships.

Retaining Basics

“You still need to learn the basics in your math class, in your science and history classes,” explains Grose. “But the freedom is much greater.” Students at RCS are allowed to use their phones in class to access information, although there are parameters. With the kids constantly accessing the Internet and social media, Grose says schools have a responsibility in teaching them integrity in that area, especially because social media has been a platform for bullying.

Exceptional students will learn according to their own ability. Assignments can be tailored for students with a passion towards a general direction. “It’s much more open-ended now. We’re moving away from teaching curriculum to teaching students,” says Grose. “One of the tenets of education is that children learn at different rates at different times, in different places. We’ve always said that, but we didn’t always acknowledge the different rates and times.”

Transition Period

Some questions are still unanswered. How will students be assessed? As learning becomes more individualized, the challenge of administering exams to a class of students is inevitable. Will report cards and a grade system eventually be phased out? Government administered exams are already beginning to disappear. How will colleges and universities adapt their entrance requirements? The answers to these questions are not yet clear, and the Ministry of Education acknowledges a transition period will take place.

To Live Is Christ

In terms of how the new changes affect Christian Schools, Grose hopes students will more fully grasp ‘for me to live is Christ.’ “It’s not to take them out of the world, but to teach them how to live in the world. The box of education, instead of being neatly wrapped up with a big bow…the bow has been taken off, the lid has been taken off, the box corners have been cut, it’s all open and it’s spilled out everywhere. And that’s a good thing.”

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