Time's ticking on B.C. curriculum changes

Paul Romani

“BC’s Education Plan: Experiments with kids’ learning”

That’s the headline of the December issue of Teacher Newsmagazine, a publication sent to all B.C. teachers.

Teacher’s article presents a cynical view on the plans laid out by George Abbott, the Education Minister, and the Ministry of Education. It questions the likelihood of such radical changes occurring within such a short timescale.
This time is tight indeed, for the B.C. government plan on implementing their changes in a few years.
Further, they have set themselves a 6-month deadline to do a redesign of K-12 education. That’s a lot to change in little time.

What changes?

George Abbott has proposed 5 x key changes:

  1. Personalized learning for every student
  2. Quality teaching and learning
  3. Flexibility and choice
  4. High standards
  5. Learning powered by technology

No details about these changes are mentioned in Teacher’s article. However, much of what the B.C. Ministry is proposing echoes the educational beliefs of Pear Tree Education’s version of ‘Education 3.0’.

1. Personalized learning for every student

At Pear Tree Education, we provide our students with the perfect balance between teacher and student time.
Students experience top-quality instruction from master’s qualified teachers on a study theme.
At the same time, our students have a choice over what particular part of the topic interests them the most. How students decide to research their topic, develop it, apply it, and present it is completely up to them.
Personalized learning comes not so much from school teachers trying to customize their teaching to the needs over 30 children (which seems to be the approach the Ministry are taking), but from children personalizing their own education through freedom of expression in their projects.
George Abbott states that teachers’ roles will change from what was once the traditional, primary source of knowledge, to one that guides students in learning towards competencies.
Abbott defines these competencies as “critical thinking, insight, and teamwork”.
At Pear Tree Education, teachers work towards helping students learn to apply critical thinking skills to projects they are working on collaboratively with others, and to apply education to real–life through extended projects.
In many ways, teachers are mentors or life coaches to help guide students in their learning, rather than being the sole source of knowledge they typically were believed to be.

2. Quality teaching and learning

At Pear Tree Education, there is a maximum of 14 students per class.
Each class has a qualified B.C. school teacher with a master’s degree and substantial classroom teaching experience.
Additionally, each class has a teacher assistant, who works collaboratively with the teacher and can model to students the power of collaboration.
Classes are student centered, and encourage active, hands-on learning.

3. Flexibility and choice

While students are all working on the same topic, their projects and interests in the topic are different. In other words, there is still freedom to express individualism and special abilities within group projects, just like in the world of work.

4. High Standards

With a 1:7 teacher-student ratio, small class sizes, highly-qualified staff, and active hands-on learning, those are standards which public education will be hard-pressed to compete with.

5. Learning powered by technology

While historically only the elite in society could access knowledge, this isn’t the case anymore.
With the onset of new technologies like the Internet, iPads, Smartphones, anyone can access information at any time.
Therefore, memorizing factual knowledge which anyone can access with a phone isn’t as pragmatic or useful as it once was.
Instead, a person’s ability to look at information critically and knowledge appropriately is much more beneficial to individuals and to society as a whole.
What is more, Abbott wants to encourage students to “bring their smartphones and iPads to class for the teacher to incorporate into their teaching.”
Typically, there is a huge divide between technology used – or rather ‘not used’ – at school, and the technology that students use on a daily basis in their lives outside of school.
In fact, many schools currently prohibit students from bringing such devices to school.
At Pear Tree Education, students use modern technology, such as iPads, laptops, Smartboards all the time, and are frequently introduced to new software.
While Pear Tree Education has its own technology on hand, we encourage students to bring their own pieces of technology from home, because these are things they are used to and can continue to use once they have left class – thereby further bridging the gap between real-life and school.
The media’s negative reaction to Abbott’s desire to implement technology in the classroom is likely because it is often not done in a meaningful way, but simply for the sake of using technology.
Pear Tree’s teachers are computer-savvy, and are proficient in using technology in a purposeful way. We believe technology should be used only when it is proven to be useful, not just for the sake of it.
Also, we don’t believe technology is meant to replace traditional reading and writing. Technology should supplement and enhance a student’s ability to learn.


The government proposes to reform current education shaped by these five elements, and to do so within a few years.
With minimal funding and already over-crowded classrooms, it will be a challenge.
With the teachers’ union protecting old-fashioned teachers from adapting to these new requirements, the challenge will be all the great.
Fortunately, Pear Tree Education is already using these proposed ideas. While the idea is hardly original (after all, it is based on collective academic research carried out by other experts), Pear Tree is the first organization – public or private – to implement 21st century learning in Vancouver.
Furthermore, there are various other aspects of Pear Tree’s teaching that will be neglected in public education, particularly entrepreneurship.
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