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New Curriculum Not Meant For B.C. Public Schools

09/07/2015 05:13 EDT | Updated 09/07/2016 05:12 EDT
Caiaimage/Sam Edwards

I've been wracking my brain trying to figure out how the new B.C. curriculum could be implemented in all the classrooms I know. I could not fathom how a teacher could personalize learning for all 30 of her students when half of them who needed support of one kind or another were not getting it. Education assistants were considered a salary benefit outside of the "affordability zone" during the labour dispute last year, remember?

Each time I tried to imagine what personalized learning would look like in overcrowded classrooms with outdated technology, my mind sent me 404 error messages. Nothing computed.

But, after reading all the commentary about the new curriculum, it hit me! The new curriculum is not meant for the kinds of classrooms I know. It's not meant for underfunded public schools.

The new curriculum is meant for private schools where there are only 15 students and unlimited resources in each classroom. It's in private school classrooms that personalized learning would fit seamlessly.

The more I thought about it, the less confused I became. The B.C. Liberal government has been doing the private school industry many favours lately. We taxpayers provided private schools with $311 million this year. The BC Liberal government has also decided, on our behalf, that private schools should get a break from municipal taxes because government revenue didn't really need the $5million in taxes that would have been due.

And to ensure that the B.C. Liberal government doesn't miss any more opportunities to help the private school industry, they've appointed a new advocate who will keep the Premier up to date with what private schools need.

The needs of public schools fall on deaf ears. I am astounded that Premier Christy Clark is unashamed of the fact that a newspaper runs a charity that provides funds for schools. A charity started after a teacher's letter pleading for shoes for her students went viral. I suppose that's one way we public school teachers can personalize what happens in our classrooms: we can continue to personally provide food and shoes for our students.

It's certainly personal when we teachers spend an average of $1,200 of our after-tax income each year on supplies for our classrooms.

Inviting teachers to collaborate on a new curriculum was a particularly disingenuous move by the Ministry. Insisting that it was teachers who created the curriculum is like saying that the interior designers created Hotel Vancouver. The parameters and budget were already pre-set.

It's also quite cruel to invite teachers to design the curriculum of their dreams while removing $250 million each year from public school budgets. It's the kind of move that the Mr. Hyde version of the Ministry would make, the equivalent of telling students that they can go on a trip to Disneyland while not providing funding for transportation or accommodation or food or entrance tickets.

If the government sincerely intended for curriculum change to be driven by teachers, it would have involved all teachers in the process. Remember the accreditation process that took up almost two years of professional development time in the 1990s? What happened as a result? We have school plans that are aspirational documents because there is no funding to accomplish the goals.

We teachers know exactly what our students need. The skill sets that teachers who collaborated on the curriculum took to the Ministry exist in thousands of classrooms in B.C. which is why we have a "world-renowned" education system as the Ministry loves to boast about.

But all our knowledge and skill cannot provide for our classrooms what adequate funding can.

When the Vancouver Sun newspaper shuts down its Adopt-A-School charity because it's not needed anymore, then I'll celebrate the new curriculum.

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