As the provincial Ministry of Education heads into the second year of its three-year approach to implementing a new curriculum, high-school students can expect some changes to the way they're assessed.
Among the changes: The previous five provincial exams are being replaced with two assessments, focused on math and literacy skills; student progress in subjects like science, social studies and language arts will now be assessed in the classroom; from late June to October, parents will be consulted on what they want to know about their child's progress and how they want to get that information; and starting in the 2017-18 school year, students will need to take a Career Education course in order to graduate.
"The curriculum wasn't developed in a vacuum, and in fact, we focused on the skills that post-secondary institutions have said that they need to see the kids equipped with in order to go on to post secondary," education minister Mike Bernier said in a May 26 media conference call.
"We want to ensure through all of this that we have a seamless path into post-secondary education and training with the new curriculum, so we know that our students with this are going to be well equipped. They'll have the skills that they need to do whatever they choose in life."
One of the most common questions the Sea to Sky School District (SD48) fields about the new curriculum is around the involvement of post-secondary institutions, said superintendent Lisa McCullough.
"I think that's a really key point for our families to hear: Yes, they've been consulted, our major post-secondary partners have been at the table and have approved these changes as being acceptable to their institutions," McCullough said.
The topic has also posed a big question at District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC) meetings, said Steve Lloyd, president of the Sea to Sky Teachers' Association.
"We have absolutely the same concern as parents do, because our senior secondary teachers want to know how to prepare our students for what comes after secondary school, right?" he said.
"The last thing any teacher wants to do is set a child up for failure."
Project-based learning, with its multi-disciplinary approach and focus on engaging students with topics they're passionate about, is a positive, Lloyd said, but questions remain about the new approach to student assessment.
"It's still a bit of a mystery for us. We're not that clear about what is going to be required of our students," Lloyd said.
"So it's a positive thing, we think, for education, but we absolutely want to make sure that we're preparing our children for success, and not setting them up for failure."
Former DPAC chair Margot Murdoch, also a former teacher, said the changes sound good on paper, but seem somewhat vague and ideological.
"I think some parents are really digging it, and if I felt that I was really confident that these kids are going to go off to university and be ready for the challenge, I think it would be awesome," Murdoch said.
"But it's too vague, and it's too subject to whatever teacher you get that year."
The biggest concern from parents with kids hoping to go on to university is the fear of the unknown — the anxiety that maybe they aren't prepared for a rigorous post-secondary life.
"They might have done really well in the project that their teacher set up for them on First Nations or whatever it's going to be, but they will actually be quite anxious in knowing if they are prepared or able to survive at post-secondary institutions," Murdoch said.
"I am a little concerned that teachers are teachers, so they shouldn't just be monitoring kids' projects. I feel that we've taken away their ability to teach, and to share their knowledge and their field of study that they're really good at."