January 29, 2009

Stuff we talk about but don’t do

This post was last updated on September 5th, 2011 at 11:04 am

Nuns with classToday at our Saskatchewan Curriculum Renewal workshops we were introduced to many of the new concepts and philosophies of the new curriculum. The intent of the curriculum is to reduce outcomes, provide common language for all curricula, focus more on learning than on teaching and focus on depth of understanding instead of only breadth.

There was a lot of talk of big picture thinking and encouraging teachers to reflect on why they teach what they teach. Early on someone mentioned the goals of education. With some recent discussions on the purpose of education, I thought it pertinent to look up the 9 goals of education for students in Saskatchewan.

Basic Skills

• Read, write and compute

• Acquire information and meaning through observing, listening, reading and experiencing

• Process information through intellectual and technological means

• Solve problems by applying basic principles and processes of the sciences, arts and humanities

• Communicate ideas through written and spoken language, mathematical symbols and aesthetic expression

Life-Long Learning

• Seek and value learning experiences

• Act as self-reliant learners

• Base actions on the knowledge that it is necessary to learn throughout life

Understanding and Relating to Others

• Act on the belief that each individual is worthwhile

• Base actions on the recognition that people differ in their values, behaviours and lifestyles

• Interact and feel comfortable with others who are different in race, religion, status or personal attributes

• Develop a sense of responsibility toward others

Career and Consumer Decisions

• Develop an awareness of career opportunities

• Develop interests and abilities in relation to vocational expectations

• Adapt to shifts in employment patterns and technology

• Make informed consumer decisions

Growing with Change

• Work toward immediate and long-term goals

• Base actions on an understanding that change is a natural process in society

• Select workable alternatives in response to changing conditions

• Develop confidence in making decisions that involve risk

Membership in Society

• Assume responsibility for their own actions

• Work with others to achieve individual and group goals

• Participate in the democratic processes of government and perform the duties of citizenship

• Respect the rights and property of others

• Act with honesty, integrity, compassion and fairness

• Develop a sense of national pride and acknowledge the need for international understanding

• Work toward greater social justice

• Assume responsibility for dependent persons in a manner consistent with their needs

• Respect law and authority

• Exercise the right of dissent responsibly

Self-Concept Development

• Perceive themselves in a positive way

• Appreciate their own abilities and limitations

• Set and work toward personal goals

• Assess praise and criticism realistically

• Present themselves with confidence

Positive Lifestyle

• Practise appropriate personal hygiene, engage in sufficient physical activity, and maintain a nutritionally balanced diet

• Avoid harmful use of alcohol and other drugs

• Cultivate interests that may be the basis for personal development and leisure pursuits

• Recognize the importance of productive activity

• Display initiative and pursue tasks diligently

• Maintain a safe and healthful community

• Respect and seek to enhance the environment

• Appreciate beauty in its many natural and constructed forms

• Express themselves creatively

Spiritual Development

• Seek an understanding of the purpose and worth of human existence

• Develop a knowledge of God

• Respect family, religion and culture in a pluralistic society

This looks decent. A balanced approach to education. But if you dropped into any of our schools or most of yours,  you might find most doing a good job on the first goal but pretty pathetic on the others. Oh there are some hits and misses in the other areas but the message that is sent to students, teachers and parents is that basic skills, and specifically reading, writing and math, are most important and the others are nice, but not necessary. I’m frustrated by the lack of focus on health, arts education and character education. I’ve already ranted about that. This rant simply states that we don’t walk the talk.

I am pleased that most of our leaders seem to believe in this balanced approached, but our infrastructure doesn’t support it. Specifically, school divisions in Saskatchewan are now accountable for something called the CIF (Continuous Improvement Framework) Schools are asked to identify goals which promote:

  • student achievment
  • equitable opportunities
  • Smooth transitions into and through the system; and,
  • Strong system-wide accountability and governance.

I don’t really care all that much about the last one but the first two goals in particular have been focused largely on reading and math. Not because people believe the other areas of a balanced curriculum aren’t important, but because we can more easily measure them. At least that’s my perspective. Isn’t that a great reason? It’s not easy to measure positive lifestyles or membership in society.

I’m not blaming our province, they have produced some quality documents and framework for education. I’m not blaming our school division, they feel pressure to produce measurable results for stakeholders. I’m not blaming teachers, they’re just operating under the current system.

Maybe I’m blaming everyone?

Good plan. Poor execution.
Creative Commons License photo credit: Foxtongue