What do you think are the benefits and challenges to offering students more flexible learning opportunities?

Summary to date:
Here’s a summary of what you’ve said so far. Click on the links beside each theme to read supporting examples.

  1. A greater role for parents (1, 2, 3)
  2. Increased student motivation and ownership over their learning (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
  3. Accommodation of different learning styles (1, 2)
  4. Practical skill development and a greater connection with the community (1, 2, 3)
  5. More flexibility around schedules (the “when” of learning) (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
  6. Students don’t have the maturity or foresight to make good choices about what to learn (1, 2, 3)
  7. If given too much choice, kids will pick the easiest route (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
  8. Concerns about inadequate curriculum coverage and de-emphasis of basic skills (1, 2, 3)
  9. Concerns about assessment (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
  10. Overreliance on technology (1, 2, 3, 4)
  11. More work for already burdened educators (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
  12. Worsening of existing inequalities (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
  13. Overcoming teacher resistance and/or lack of understanding (1, 2)

Please leave a comment below if you’d like to contribute to this topic.

570 Responses to “ Benefits and challenges of flexible learning ”

  1. Andrea says:

    Benefits: I think providing more options for students will motivate more students to be active participants in their own learning. People are incredibly varied and diverse that it is difficult to teach a large group and expect that all of them will find the material relevant to their lives/interests. As the world is such an ever-changing place, topics/skills that are relevant are ever-changing as well. For students to be able to map out their own path, will not only provide a more engaging experience, perhaps students will be more accountable/aware of their learning.

    Challenges: Although I like the idea of flexibility, it will be interesting to see how it is implemeted in the classroom. How will one teacher be able to meet the needs of so many students when each are being educated in a different area of study? Unless there is assistance in the classroom, which is not always the case, students may be studying an area of interest, but might not be provided adequate support to make the learning meaningful. An important issue here is funding… not only for assistance in the classroom, but for technological opportunities, opportunities outside of the classroom, prep time for teachers to prepare for such a wide range of material. There are a lot of variables that need to be considered. How will assessment look with individual plans?

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  2. Kevin says:

    Perhaps it is more a case of redesign. It strikes me that our only method of quality control in a totally flexible system will be some type of assessment. With fewer outcomes provincial exams would be an excellent tool to gage the success of changes to our school system. At the end of the day we need students to hit targets in basic skills. What does Finland’s end of school exam look like? Low stakes fsa style assessment provides us with important system wide data. Shorten Fsa by about a third so it takes less time but still has reliable data and add a grade 10 fsa. These three low stakes assessments will clearly demonstrate if students are meeting he basic skill requirements of educated citizens. (There may be objections to this concept due to the unfortunate rankings of schools using this data. Disapproval of rankings is rare common ground amongst the vast majority of stakeholders including unions and the government. Presented properly and jointly,the arguments against rankings should make them a relic of past thinking. After all this website is entirely based upon the idea that individuals can make good choices. If it isn’t possible to convince people to choose not to put any stock in the so obviously ridiculous rankings then we probably should rethink this whole”choice in learning” thing.)

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  3. Cindi says:

    My children currently attend Surrey Connect, a Distributed Learning school option. This option allows for the flexibility learning as described in this new plan for education. My children are thriving with this program. They have personalized learning plans, teachers who have the time and ability to see their personal learning styles and more personalized report cards that actually reflect their work. The options for learning the prescribed outcomes are endless for us. We learn through traditional textbooks but also extensively in the real world. We go out into the community and learn there. Their extra-curricular activities count towards their various subjects. I am very excited that the regular public brick and mortar school may have the same opportunities my children have.
    The Distributed Learning option we have chosen requires a great amount of parent involvement.I am curious as to how some of the flexibility in the new plan will implement the need for parental involvement. We are ultimately responsible for our children and their learning, I get that. Many parents expect to drop off their kids to school and have them handed back, educated. I foresee resistance from some parents. Double income families are the norm in the bigger cities across this province and families may cite having no time for extra school work with their children.
    This will be a very large shift of responsibility from the schools to the parents of the learning process. We applaud this change and see that it does work, the effort shows in our children.

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  4. Susan Kabotoff says:

    I see the need for some fundamental changes in the system if we are to work towards a truly student-centred system. There is so much research and public opinion supporting the move towards meeting student needs and providing an education that is navigated by the student, not forced upon them. The dangers, however, are imminent. Already we have a great divide between our graduates who are high achievers, productive citizens and those students who are struggling with basic literacy, absenteeism, and very little home support. Although letting the achievers “go” would logically allow those students to go further, do more etc., my fear is that without clear consistent competencies that students, parents, teachers and admin can interpret, we will lose our weaker students in the gray area.
    As a result, I think it would be crucial to set achievement indicators that are fundamental to any system. We also have to all work together on this because what sounds great on paper may not necessarily be easy to put into practice in smaller more remote areas.

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  5. S. Wohl says:

    This is a great idea as long as the Ministry does not hold to outdated ideas such as provincial exams. Provincial exams tether students and teachers to the Prescribed Learning Outcomes and, provide no flexibility. To me, provincial exams (Science 10, Socials 11) are the antithesis of “flexible learning opportunities”.

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Several people such as yourself have suggested that standardized tests, such as provincial exams, are antithetical to the principles of personalized learning. Do you or any others have suggestions for how we can promote personalization yet still ensure adequate student assessment takes place?

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      • Janet says:

        Somebody in each child’s life ought to be able to look at the child’s work and see what level they are working at.

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  6. Kelsey says:

    Benefits: Students are all people and are different from each other. One person, such as a teacher, cannot stand up in a class and teach one way all the time and expect students to effectively learn the content. The teacher would be lucky to connect to two or more students this way. As teachers we need to offer different ways of learning to connect with each student. Students can only benefit from personalized learning as it tends to their individual needs while teaching a specific skill to the entire class.

    This being said there are challenges in this. There are anywhere from twenty to thirty students in a class with one teacher. There can be many learning disabled students in one class and some may have special needs. If a teacher is lucky there may be one EA there throughout the day or for an hour or so. This is my experience in the classroom, so how does one be incredibly sensitive to individual needs with so little help? Teachers will do what they can with the time and resources available but it is challenging. Creating groups with students being at like levels is one way that this is being handled. I believe that most teachers in BC want to teach to individual needs but just cannot manage with the help at the moment.

    Hopefully this goal of flexibility can be met because our children and students will be so much better off with the individual attention. I am a student teacher at the moment and hope to give as much of this attention as possible when I am in the class full time. As a parent I also want to see this for my children. I love the direction that teaching is going at the moment we just need to work out the kinks so that the plan can become completely effective.

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    • Mellisa says:

      I am also a student teacher. I agree with everything that you have said Kelsey. My question would be what is the ministry going to do about class size? Will this new plan which sounds really good for BC and it’s students address the size of classes so that teachers do not have 25-30 students in their class? Students with learning disabilities should be in mainstreamed classes but all classes need to be smaller so that teachers can better address the needs of the students.

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  7. Jaz says:

    I’m very new to this and have thoroughly enjoyed reading about the Ministry’s vision, watching some of the videos, and reading others comments. My children have been educated within the Ministry’s Homeschool/Distributed Learning Model. There has been a lot of flexibility in “how” the learning outcomes are met. This has helped make the learning experience a more enjoyable one on the whole. My question is, what does “flexible learning opportunities” mean exactly? Does it mean flexibility in how the learning outcomes are met, or does it mean a wider variety of courses and opportunities, or both?

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Just like you suggested, Jaz, flexible means variety in terms of when, what, where, and how you learn. Of course, there are basic skills and outcomes that must be covered in every course, but this can be done in more flexible ways then is often the case at present.

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  8. Denise says:

    Benefits:
    Naturally, we as human beings learn on a deeper level when we can connect information to our everyday lives. Personalized learning will help to provide this connection to everyday lives with a wide range of students. In my opinion, the most significant statement made from the education plan was the following: “To help students succeed in a rapidly-changing world, teachers will be empowered to shift from being the primary source of content to focus on helping students learn how to learn.” Learn how to learn. If we are providing personalized plans and more choices for our students they must learn how to learn. Self-directed and motivated students will need these skills for critical thinking, research and accessing information.

    Challenges:
    Although this education plan paints a beautiful picture which I would love to see in action, I can foresee a number of challenges. Funding is my main concern. Funding will be required to provide: More learning outside of school, technology in the classroom, a variety of resources to provide choices and more prep time to account for individualized plans.

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  9. L. Tooker says:

    Schools that offer more flexible learning opportunities already exist in BC. One is Thomas Haney Secondary School in Maple Ridge, which should be examined more closely before embarking on a system-wide change. One challenge that flexibility demands is that students accept more personal responsibility for their learning. Also, parents have to work more closely with the teachers than they would if their children attend a conventional high school. Communication is the key to success. Furthermore, THSS has struggled to offer flexibility within an inflexible system (e.g. provincial exams at grade 10, 11 and 12).
    I cannot help but think that the “flexibility” in the proposed education plan is some sort of code for a system of hoops to jump through (e.g. DPA), rather than a truly individual, personalized learning plan designed by a student, his or her parents, and the teachers.

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Thomas Haney is a good example of a school make strides towards a more personalized system. See our video here, if you’re interested.

      http://www.bcedplan.ca/happening.php

      What sorts of changes do you think we need to make to assessment to make schools like Thomas Hainey more successful?

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      • C. Welch says:

        But as I understand it, students at Thomas Haney take the same courses and complete the same learning packages. They can learn at their own pace, at least until June, but how is learning individualized for the particular interests of each student?

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      • Janet says:

        By watching the video I didn’t get all that much information.
        Is it personalized learning, using the same curriculum?

        It reminds me of Handsworth Secondary in North Vancouver, in the 1970s. They were on the ‘lap system’ and my high school experimented with this concept for some subjects at that time. A new large spacious open learning space was created for this type of learning and I liked the atmosphere. It was more relaxed, we sat at tables instead of desks; it was less cramped and crowded than a traditional classroom. I could focus better. For me it worked, because it enabled me to teach myself as well as take small group seminars if I chose to or ask for help from one of the teachers that were available. I preferred this way of learning, as it gave me more freedom and responsibility and I could work at my own pace.

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        • Lee Anne says:

          Sounds like an ideal system but I have a question for you? what happened to those students who were not as motivated as you? who monitored them and/or helped them? a program such as the one you are talking about works amazingly well for self motivated students; ones with the confidence and drive to know what they want; what questions to ask etc. but what about the students who have learning issues, or comprehension problems; or difficutlies concentrating? my fear is that ‘one size’ does not fit all students and sometimes I get the sense that the Ministry is looking for just that sort of system.

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  10. E Parker says:

    Flexibility is an incredibly powerful tool but I think there still needs to be some sort of frame work to support it. The Plan stats that “teachers will be empowered to shift from being the primary source of content to focus on helping students learn how to learn.” I think this is a good place to start in order to insure that student know how to choose what works best for them.
    The Plan also states that “By having the curriculum built around fewer but higher level outcomes, this plan gives teachers and students more time and flexibility to explore student’s interests and passions.” I see this as a large benefit that will allow students to not only understand the concepts at a deeper more complete level, but will afford teachers a greater ability to make sure that flexibility and choice are better supported for their students and clearly observed in a measurable way.
    A major benefit of flexible learning opportunities will be that they require greater competencies in areas of self reliance, critical thinking, inquiry, creativity, and problem solving, and thus will elicit a greater focus in these imperative areas.

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  11. Kelsey says:

    I believe that offering more flexible learning opportunities is a good idea. By doing so you allow the students to have the opportunity to focus on an issue that interests them, rather than the teacher telling them what to study. With this change will come issues though. Many students will look for the easy way out and do the bare minimum required to move ahead. Assessment strategies will play a major factor on how using more flexible learning opportunities will go.
    However the BC Education plan in general seems a little vague. I realize that they wish more input from the province as a whole, but I feel as though all they have given us is a list of potential ideas with no plan to implement them. It will be interesting to see if anything comes from all of this.

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Kelsey, are you concerned that more choice will lead to lower quality courses? If so, can you explain what makes you think that?

      And, in response to your comment about the Plan, this is your opportunity NOW to help shape it. Think of the document as a VISION for how we and others think education needs to be transformed. The conversation we’re having here and in other venues is where everyone gets to have a say in how this needs to look in practical terms. For us to dictate to people how we are going to move forward with needed change is contrary to the principles of citizen engagement we strongly believe in with our work. We don’t have all the answers- no one does – but combined we can pool our ideas and examples and chart the way forward. This is a collective exercise not a prescriptive decree from the ministry.

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  12. Sarah says:

    I think that flexible learning opportunities envisioned in the BC Education Plan will result in an educational culture of ownership. When students learn to view education as their own, and not just something that is coming at them from the top-down, their learning will be deeper and effectual. In this way, I think the thrust of the BC Educational Plan has the potential to create the foundation for life longing learning in our society at large.

    Presumably, all Bachelor of Education students in BC will be receiving training that is driven by these goals, and in the long run will be the bearers of overall change to the public education system.

    However, I think the challenge will come when implementing these ideals practically and affordably in the classroom. For educators who are currently employed in BC, will sufficient opportunities will be provided for professional development to effectively implement these goals? I question if Pro-D days are enough to truly effect change on the front lines, so to speak.

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Hi Sarah. We are working closely with BC’s universities to discuss what changes may need to be made to the teacher training programs so students are well versed in the ways of 21st century teaching and learning. Professional development, including workshops and mentorship opportunities with experienced teachers, will also become more common.

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  13. Jenny M says:

    I think that having more flexible learning opportunities by giving students more choice could go either way. Some students can do great things when given choice while others need the guidance and support. I think the benefits would be that students are engaged in something they truly like and will take ownership of it while being more accountable for their own learning. Some of the challenges I see students facing are that some might get lost in all of the choice, or choose options that are way below their academic level and just get by doing mediocre work. There will need to be structure in place to guide the new flexible learning opportunities.

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  14. Jen B says:

    There are many benefits to personalized learning including content relevancy, student ownership and flexibility for the individual learner. Children are more likely to stay engaged in the learning process if they are the ones deciding what, where, when and how they are going to learn about any particular topic. The challenge is going to be making sure that students stay on task while ensuring that core learning outcomes are being met. It is evident that the role of an educator is crucial when it comes to a successful learning environment as students need guidance in order to meet their learning goals.

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  15. Justine says:

    Right away I feel that providing choice to students is a great way to increase the motivation and effort of students, especially at the higher grades as they begin to think, “Why do I need to know this stuff?” Choice and flexibility also holds students accountable for their work that they produce. This is a way that we as educators can learn more about our students and their talents outside the classroom; such as sports and teamwork.
    I worry a little about how much choice the family is given about the “what” their child engages in. You don’t want the pressure from parents taking over and influencing what the students truly want. Is it possible for a student to not know what he/she wants to be/do when they grow up? With the ability to choose which school the student attends is it possible that it will become extremely difficult to place students appropriately in classrooms? And how will this affect the teachers? Will they be switching schools often?
    I really feel that providing choice and flexibility will increase the learning that takes place within a classroom. I think this can assist students in job opportunities as they finish their schooling and really keep them motivated and interested as they work through their education.

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Thanks for your comment, Justine. You’re right that flexibility and choice will allow students to pursue interests, skills, and passions that are important to them. Of course, this will be determined with the support of teachers and parents – it’s not a free for all by any means.

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  16. Steffanie says:

    Through allowing our students to have more flexibility and choice, we will be better equipping them for the real world ahead of them. The world is changing and growing at such a fast rate, and with more flexibility, comes more growth and learning opportunities. In addition, flexibility and choice will allow students to be more engaged in their learning and will help them to find their passion. As teachers one of our many jobs is to lead our students down the paths they wish to take in life, and by giving them many choices we are encouraging them to find their own paths and a direction to take in their futures ahead of them.

    Some of the challenges that I see with including more flexibility and choice, are the ways in which teachers will be able to work these choices into their lessons. I see many teachers having to change or re-evaluate their teaching styles to best meet the needs of these students. I see it being a challenging process that will take time. In addition, teachers will need to find more flexible and adaptable assessment methods and strategies to best meet the needs of their diverse students and learning opportunities.

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  17. M.McClocklin says:

    Speaking from my own experience I feel that an element of choice is a good way to keep students interested in their own learning. Choosing topics, mediums and this kind of thing can be great for instilling pride in projects and taking ownership and accountability for work.

    I do worry about a larger philosophical implementation of choice however. A teacher told me once, that if we only read the books we know we will like we will never advance as readers. Part of the problem related to a generation of distracted learners is their conditioning to the regular and immediate attainment of satisfaction through ever present comforts (where a false sense of agency and safety is conjured through things like foods, gaming, media and addictive social media outlets.) Having too much choice is only catering to an unhealthy habit of immediate satisfaction when choice is avoiding the ‘work’ that is necessary in self regulation, intentionality and the development of effective focus.

    Let’s be careful with this. I hope our students will still learn the differences between working through challenge and avoiding it.

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    • Moderator Virginia says:

      Good points! If children only ate the foods they liked it’s hard to imagine that they’d choose the healthier choices, or pick the more challenging books to read, or follow-through on the projects that require persistence. Your post seems to reinforce the need for the guidance of teachers and parents, and other caring adults.

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  18. Kala B says:

    I feel that we do need to give students the opportunity to customize their learning to their needs, beliefs and goals, however, as many have mentioned already there still needs to be an emphasis on the core curriculum and established standards. Many students will benefit from a flexible learning environment where they have choice, which will give the student a sense of ownership allowing them to fully connect to their learning. Personally when I have choices in a work project or school assignment I feel I can use my creativity and make it my own, however, still appreciate guidance and structure to which gives me confidence and I can see that I am on track.

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  19. Nicole Y says:

    I think more flexible learning opportunities for students is one of the key ingredients to advancing our education system and facilitating innovation. Job descriptions are changing. Law students thirty years ago were almost guaranteed an articling position, that same student now is facing one of the worst job markets in the history of it’s profession. Students are graduating from university in debt and with no hope of job prospects. Clearly, there is a disconnect between our education system and what the industry of tomorrow needs. If we could help identify a child’s interests at an early age and then build an education plan that supports that interest or purpose, than I believe our students will be more successful on all levels. One of the challenges to offering more flexible learning opportunities for students is the commitment by parents, students and teachers. Would current teachers be able to adapt to this new model or do we have the skills to support this learning environment? And furthermore, if a child changes their focus at any time, are they put at a disadvantage (e.g. longer time to graduate)?

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    • Moderator Virginia says:

      Good questions, Nicole! You identify the challenge of preparing students for an unknown future, and with people living and working longer, this challenge will continue to present itself. Flexible learning opportunties, and learning how to be flexible and innovative, do seem to be key.

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  20. Mrs. Powers says:

    The benefits to offering flexible learning opportunities are huge, as flexibility allows for individuals to be engaged and excited about their learning. The challenges are that many teachers aren’t given the resources they need to provide different materials to different students. Teachers need to be given a fair amount of money to spend on their classroom resources. They need to be supported with prep time in order to prep different resources for their students. Funding for teacher assistants/SEA’s is key in providing flexible educational programs. Having a managable class size and managable composition is also key. When teachers are not given the support they need, it becomes too hard for them to offer flexible choices in their classrooms.

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  21. Ken Holland says:

    Pro.. giving students access to more choices may wake up some latent desire to persue further studies in that area and give them a cahnce to become a productive member of society in an area they love.
    Con… sometimes giving students too many choices is counterproductive because they get confused or overwhelmed and also the more choices there are, the more expense ther is.

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  22. Caroline says:

    I think that much success in school starts with social communication. Many of our special needs kids don’t know how to talk to their peers and create friendships. Placement in the classroom, study groups, help with facilitating social interaction on the playground all help to create and improve friendships.

    School work and teachers are one aspect of a successful school experience, peers are another very important part. We can’t forget inclusion includes friends.

    Social skills will help special needs individuals later in life too. These skills are life-long and are used and built upon every day.

    Social interaction is also beneficial to our physically/neuro-typical kids too. These skills build on acceptance and understanding of physically or mentally challenged children.

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  23. Kathy says:

    It’s great to see how other countries & cultures deliver educational service to its citizens. I would caution about the significant cultural & political differences that may exist. Check out the tax base in Finland. I would suggest that students and families, in many countries outside of North America, place a higher value on public education that we do in Canada or the US.

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  24. jane says:

    As a parent whose ‘children’ have now graduated and struggled to find their way in the adult world, I would like to comment. My children were both bright students who were certainly very capable, and for the most part, received ‘A’ scores in most of their courses in high school, with very little effort, I might add. I say this, not from the point of view of a proud mother, but rather to say that, neither of them had had to exert themselves in high school, did not study much, did not have to do any thorough research on a topic, rarely did homework, etc. in order to obtain those grades. The ‘surprise’ hit when they began university. I would say that they were both very ill prepared for the level of work expected, the amount of research and reading required, and the critical thinking involved when evaluating research. My daughter, who was always on the honour roll in the school system, almost failed most of her first year university courses. Eventually, they both figured it out, and both are now successful in their careers, but it was with much struggle and an additional year of university. If I was to choose what sort of public school education my children had, I would wish for a structured curriculum with high standards and expectations; and a small amount of ‘creative choice’ at the high school level. I realize that there are students who, for a variety of reasons, have challenges fitting into the typical academic stream, and there should continue to be choices/planning for those students to help keep them engaged in and attending school.

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  25. Krista says:

    A benefit to having students have choice in their learning is that they will be able to have a connection to the topic.

    A challenge would be how can to support students whose guardians aren’t involved in the school due to a variety of reasons. Also, how can you accurately credit students who do after school activities to those who don’t have the opportunity?

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  26. Shaun says:

    I think the very question needs to be more defined. I see a big difference between Middle or high school and elementary school. Students need to learn the basic skills of communication (reading, writing and conversing face to face). They also need the fundamental math skills that lead to, and assist them with, more difficult concepts as they develop.
    What does this question really mean? More flexibility with curriculum or flexibility within the framework of the school day?
    I believe we should keep the school day (hours) the same…maybe even extend the teaching day by an hour. Many countries have similar schedules.
    I also believe at the elementary level (especially intermediate grades) that open ended research projects and language arts projects allow student, no matter their level, to challenge themselves and take their learning to a level that will help them develop their skills.
    I would encourage parents, teachers, and politicians to read the book…”Mindsets” by Dr. Dweck (spelling may be incorrect). This book helps my wife and I with our 5 year old. Encouraging him to focus on effort level…not on how smart he is or is not in comparison to others. Effort level is a major concern in our schools.

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  27. Jennifer says:

    Flexible learning opportunities …. what a wonderfully optimistic concept – speaking from the trenches directly, I’m sad to say that I would be hard-pressed to find 15, out of the 80 whom I teach directly (and 32 of the 80 identified and funded as ‘learning challenged’) who would be willing/able and even motivated to create an authentic, practical and personalized education plan. I’d say far less than 25% would approach this task with sincerity – we would end up with reams and reams of paperwork, identifying personalized goals, and charts with no end, chasing the elusive successful ‘personalized learning plan’.

    Take a look at how the Ministry has approached Daily Physical Education to see what a flop it is at the high school level… the students are responsible for tracking and recording their own levels of physical activity … no accountability, no accuracy ~ just an exercise in futility (sitting at a desk pushing a pen along the page)… when they should be outside (or in a gymnasium) being active.

    I wonder how many students COULD actually benefit from this?.. I wonder how many students will suffer because of this initiative?

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  28. Doug Smith says:

    Benefits include more empowered students, more engagement and perhaps less apathy. I caution against some of the optimisim, as apathy in secondary schools is likely more directed to (lack of) opportunities that await the students after graduation.

    Some challenges are also likely. We must ensure that students have some type of holistic monitoring. Flexible learning opportunities suggests multiple learning communities and locations, which can make cross-collaboration difficult.

    Another challenge would be the actual implementation of different opportunities. With the same resources and same learning objectives, how do flexible learning opportunities actually become “flexible” for tens of thousands of students? I would think that most people think social collaboration is extremely important, which likely leads us back to centralized learning facilities, aka schools.

    I think better implementation of differiented learning is a realistic way to bring flexible learning to the masses. A paradigm shift in the way that assessment happens is also a subtle yet effective way to approach personalized learning.

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  29. Maddy says:

    One challenge is to ensure students still acquire basic skills needed to survive in the world after they leave school. This challenge will be one of balancing what a student wants with what they need to manage once they leave school.

    A benefit is that students may become more interested in learning.

    Another challenge is how we encourage the future generations to have an attitude of what can “I” do for society and the world rather than what can it do for me. Too much self focus does not generate this attitude which makes the world a better place. This too is a challenge of balancing the system.

    Another attitude challenge is making sure students realize that once they have left the school system people cannot always do what they want in work, play, or any other aspect of life. This is a very difficult lesson to learn as an adult; it is easier to learn as a child or youth.

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  30. Diana says:

    With flexible learning opportunities, students’ learning will be enhanced because they will be engaged in a topic of interest, learning in the style that is suitable to them, and possibly in an environment that better meets their learning needs. Learning will be more relevant, meaningful, and better prepare students for success in life.

    The challenges that I foresee, are that many teachers will be faced with changing their teaching styles to make lessons more flexible and to better meet all students’ learning needs. In addition, assessment tools and strategies will need to be more varied and flexible to meet the diverse learning styles and learning opportunities.

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  31. Anjeanette Dawson says:

    The benefits would be that the students would be able to learn at their own pace and either in a program or using a program that is suitable to their learning style. Instead of having to learn out of a bucket or outside of the classroom. The challenges are that there are not enough teachers and support staff to offer such programs. As well as funding for materials and specialized equipment to purchase for the students to use individually.

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  32. Richard Ajabu says:

    A recent article in The Atlantic, titled What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success, states, “…Finland’s experience shows that it is possible to achieve excellence by focusing not on competition, but on cooperation, and not on choice, but on equity…”. It is a short article that directly relates to our current effort to build a BC Education Plan and I recommend reading it (just click on the link above to read the article).

    1. The American and Finnish experiences should inform our BC Education Plan. Which aspects of the American/Finnish experience do we want to encourage in the BC Education Plan and which aspects do we want to avoid?

    2. Do you think that the Finnish experience supports comments on this website regarding enabling sustained communication and collaboration among education professionals such as these?
    http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/11/question-5/comment-page-1/#comment-871
    http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/10/question-3/comment-page-3/#comment-493

    3. Do you think that the Finnish experience supports comments on this website regarding increased equity in and amongst BC schools, such as this?
    http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/12/question-wrap-up/comment-page-1/#comment-1332

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    • Moderator Rebekah says:

      Richard’s rewording of the questions to specifically contrast/compare Finland’s education system provides an excellent opportunity for us to participate in a more targeted dialogue. What are your thoughts?

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      • Frederick Rathje says:

        I agree with Richard that an examination of the Finnish experience woul be extremely helpful in giving parents, teachers and administrators benchmarks on has been accomplished by a leader in education. When I look at the BC Education Plan I can see many of the same aspirations that are central to the Finnish approach to primary/secondary education.

        I was fortunate to get my hands on a library copy of the book Finnish Lessons that describes this in quite some detail. It would be helpful if school librarians can put a copy or two on their shelves. The book highlights a low pupil/teacher ratio, a masters degree to teach even in elementary school, with school lunches for kids and one costing no more than ours and and the only standardized tests the students encounter is in their matriculation year. A big part of their success is trusting the teachers to teach so that students learn. Finnish education is 190 days in the year and teachers teach 600 hours. This compares to the norm of 1100 to 1200 hours elsewhere.

        There have been a number of article written about the Finnish approach to education in American papers as they realize their efforts in reforming education are failing to achieve successful outcomes. This book is the most comprehensive compilation to date. If you are not able to get hold of the book, (I actually had to get my library to order it), one of the best summaries of the book can be found here: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/12/29/1049391/-Finnish-Lessons.

        Even the author, Pasi Sahlberg cautions that one cannot simply transplant the Finnish successes as much of it is dependent on ones own culture. (Interestingly, the author states that the Finnish education evolved from ideas originating in North America.) He has given presentations to many groups. This one to an American group of educators is available on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kK6u7AsJF8&feature=youtube_gdata_player

        I personally feel that it is very generous of Finland to share the secrets of their success with this book. a
        Over 100 delegations that have been visiting Finland each year. In some ways the book was written to lessen their load. It is a lot to expect from a country not much larger in population than BC.

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        • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

          Thank for sharing these links with us, Frederick. We definitely have our eye on Finland, as they are scoring very well in a number of important educational areas. Do you think some of their policies will work for us here in BC? Can we be as successful as Finland by modelling their education system?

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          • Kevin says:

            One could make the argument that we are already as successful as Finland once one refines the data to be comparing apples to apples. Finland is a monoculture with carefully controlled immigration and no similar legacy to our residential schools and the related issues for school performance. Finland is a tiny geographical area allowing services to be specialized but easily accessible. Internationally people study us Canadians and envy our schools in the same way we talk about Finland. Recently I was at a conference in San Fransisco with a few thousand other educators. The speaker thought he was talking to a Californian audience and said that the place doing education right was Canada and they should all go and study in Canada. When he found out there were Canadians in the audience he said, “find a Canadian a learn from them”. Now can we gain from other places? Of course we can, but lets not forget just how strong we are and more importantly lets make sure we don’t sacrifice those strengths to be something that is just “new”.

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            • Frederick Rathje says:

              Kevin, you are right that to educators in the USA, Canada are doing many things right and Salberg’s book also praises Canadians and specifically Albertans. The OCED graph (also reproduced in the book) comparing PISA performance of Canada to the other leading nations show we are no laggards. Sahlberg himself was confronted with the similar questions that Kevin has raised, that of geography, cultural diversity, land size etc and presents some thoughtful counter arguments. While not as culturally diverse as Canada, about 5% are now immigrants. However a study cited in the book comparing Finland to Norway, which has one of the highest GDP per capita, with a low immigrant community and and education modeled after American traditions fared quite poorly on the educational outcomes compared to that of Finland.

              As far as land area goes, Finland is 1/3 the size of BC though it looks tiny on our traditional maps. I am not sure on what Alberta has done to win admiration but I have read that in some school districts standardized testing in the primary grades has been abolished as they consider it taking away teaching time. As you may known the Finns only formally test in the year of matriculation to gain entrance to University. Finns value equity in education and parents don’t feel a need to move to find the “best” schools. (In fact Finland used to have privately run grammar schools, like the UK, but mosltyl abolished them in favour of an all public school system in 1970). Instead of the standardized testing, the education ministry in Finland will sample school performance to make comparisons but there is no formalized testing. The formal testing in the matriculation year shows small variation in student performance.

              What I found interesting about the Finnish eduction system is that it is a bottom up approach where the teachers are expected to do research, – skills they learned when they obtained a masters degree. Government only lays out the core curriculum. There is a lot of trust in the teachers in Finland and you don’t hear of teacher accountability. I am under the impression they don’t have a need for school superintendents. The word accountability does not exist in Finland and educators think it is something that is left when you take away responsibility. There is a lot of trust in teachers and perhaps it is because they are very highly trained. The same as say, for medical doctors who does not have to hold up his or her certificate before operating on you. For example, only the top graduates are accepted in teacher training and of the number that traditionally apply, only 10% are accepted. Teacher training is all at a university level. In my professional association (Engineering), there has always been the threat of government intervention in association affairs. To gain entrance to the profession, one must jump over the hoops set up by the association. Theres is also this emphasis now also on discipline. Most times I think the problems can be traced back to a lack of training rather intent to cause harm. From what I have been able to discover, in Germany where the profession is highly respected, when you graduate you are automatically accepted by the professional organization and I did not notice discipline on the main web page. Discipline was always something that I associated with my area of study!

              As an engineer I also have some appreciation of the trades. Trades education in Finland is not an afterthought as it is here. In countries like Germany where trades persons are highly respected, students are streamed to either academic or technical schools. Of course some parents feel their child is short changed not going to university. In Finland there is a similar streaming but it happens later in the schooling when kids already know what they are suited for. However, it is still possible to move to the academic stream by taking the extra languages etc. The graduation rate s something like 97% which speaks highly of their approach. I think our economy in BC would benefit from a two prong education system. It used to be that we imported such trades expertise from Europe but those days are long past.

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          • Frederick Rathje says:

            Mike, I definitely believe there are things that we can take advantage of by examining the Finnish education system. For those interested, there is a lot of information on the Finnish Education and Culture web site that is also in English. http://www.minedu.fi/OPM/?lang=en

            In terms of improving our education system, foremost in my mind is placing trust in the teachers that take responsibility for our childrens’ formal education. This trust has been absent for as long as I can remember so I expect it will not be easy to remap the circuits. It starts with respect for the profession and giving the teachers the freedom to innovate. This means putting responsibility on the teachers but also not continually looking over their shoulders.

            In Finland the primary teacher stays with the student for some years and gets to know the student’s strength and weaknesses. If the teacher needs help in the form of assistants or councillors, that help is made available. The focus is on early intervention. The teacher is given time to do research in her field and to collaborate with colleagues.

            As in the comments made by students themselves on your forum who are in alternative schools, class size and the ability of the teacher(s) to help individual students seems to be a majority wish. If there is trust in teachers, perhaps there is then no need for all the overhead that relates to supervision and reporting.

            I feel there needs to be structural changes in the system with regard to teacher training and a separation of union activities and professional responsibilities. In Finland the majority of teachers are in a union but it does not result in the kind of confrontations we have here. I am hoping we will be addressing that. For example, the government recently dissolved the BC Teachers College. The newly formed Teachers Council puts more emphasis on teacher certification and university training programs which is a step in the right direction. However, I do not comprehend why this body is involving itself in professional issues of the workplace like discipline. From what I know, in Finland the latter is handled at the local level rather than becoming “political”.

            Education is a complicated undertaking as this forum shows.

            Thanks for the opportunity to provide some input.

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        • Burt says:

          “A big part of their success is trusting the teachers to teach so that students learn. ”

          I would strongly agree with this, but unfortunately, the current version of the BC Edplan doesn’t exactly “ooze” confidence and trust in teachers. In fact, the subtle implications of the wording imply just the opposite. In essence this Edplan has some great stuff, but until the Ministry can start mending fences with teachers this thing is going nowhere. Sitting down to bargain IN EARNEST (i.e. other than saying no…no…no) would be a great place to start.

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    • Shaun says:

      I think the United States is the last country that should be listed at all. I agree that Finland’s school system should be looked at very closely. I hope the apparent infatuation our current government has with the U.S. system(s)ends quickly…their system is in turmoil and is usually only successful in wealthy neighbourhoods.

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      • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

        The Theme One page of our It’s Already Happening section has two links to the Finnish education system. We recognize that Finland is one of the world leaders in education, so we’re looking closely at their system to find out what makes it so successful.

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        • Burt says:

          So why then does the current Edplan specifically mention teacher accountability and “regulating” the teaching profession?

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      • Stephanie says:

        The American system as a whole may be a mess, but there are many great examples of amazing learning going on. KIPPS is just one of those things that are happening, in lower income areas. It is expanding quickly.(It is usually in charter schools, but its methods don`t require it be.
        My point is that there are many promising practices happening in the states, just as there are here in BC. I hope the ministry does there best to research them all.

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        • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

          Stephanie, can you tell us more about KIPPS? And do you have a link to a website for it?

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          • Stephanie says:

            Here is the link Mike.

            http://www.kipp.org/

            It is growing so fast. I first heard about it about 10 years ago, I think it was on Oprah and a news link. The men that started this program, if I recall correctly, were TOCs that saw students far below grade level and they improved them by leaps and bounds in just months, by using music to learn basic math skills.

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  33. Sarah says:

    I feel redesigning the education system is needed and an excellent idea. So far I agree with what the video says about how the education system is being redesigned, but my only concern is how is the government going to find the funding and the support to provide ALL the schools the same equal opportunities to technology? However in saying that, I’ll provide a remark to the above question about flexible learning opportunities. I feel that flexible learning opportunities are essential for students, as it enables them to take control of their own learning and have ownership. Thus, students will be learning in the way that they learn best and feel proud about the work that they created or the task that was done. The challenges would be teachers who are not yet comfortable with that way of learning and letting go of complete control in the classroom. Almost all the teachers in BC were brought up in the ‘old’ system. That is what is known, so the challenge will be to provide enough support to the teachers so they can work up the courage to try something new and unknown.

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  34. Christina Epp says:

    Flexibility and choice in the school system will better prepare our students for an ever changing future ahead of them. Our world is changing at such a fast rate that we are now preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist. Flexibility in learning will allow students to capitalize on a strength, and take it as far as they want. As teachers a part of our job will be to help students find their passion and strive towards it. As a student teacher just about to enter the field of education, I see an exciting challenge in finding ways to create rich, diverse, personalized learning experiences for all students, by allowing them flexibility and choice in their learning.

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  35. Delta McDonell says:

    The idea of more flexible learning opportunities is great if those opportunities are about incorporating more physical activity, more flexible environments, getting outdoors more often and less technology. Children need to engage with adults and children in meaningful ways and that means face to face. The research on the harm that the over use of technology can do is available at the Zone’n website. Cris Rowan, an OT based in BC has pulled together compelling evidence of the harm to children’s emotional, social and cognitive development that the over use of technology can cause.
    Children know how to use all kinds of technology; they don’t need anyone to teach those skills. They need to learn how to get along with a diverse group of people, how to make decisions through thoughtful analysis of situations and how to express themselves in coherent and creative ways.
    Our brains are dynamic organisms that require all kinds of stimulation and engagement that can not come from a flat screen. Let’s focus on creating healthy, vibrant environments for children to grow and learn. Turn off the cell phone, the TV, the computer and turn on the brain.

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    • Kevin says:

      Do students really “know” how to use technology? I think sometimes we can be awed by a child who picks up an ipad and immediately seems to know how to use it not realizing that the child is actual using a system designed specifically to remove complexity and limit choice. One could argue that this seeming immediate ability is more a function of brilliant design rather then a child’s natural capacity.
      The connection is that yes students need to learn the skills of working in groups, analysis, synthesis etc. One way of doing this is to work on actual understandings of technology. For instance programming teaches logic and work ethic…throw in a group situation and you have a very authentic learning experience. Turning off technology may be a pendulum swung too far…Managing technology, knowing when and how, is an essential skill.

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  36. Kevin says:

    One of the things I haven’t seen discussed here is the liability issues which will come with some of the interesting proposals here. One of the reasons we go to a “school” building has to do with safety and security. I remember PE class in grade 10 11 12 all piling into vehicles of students and staff to go out into the community for various events like rock climbing etc. They were great activities until a vehicle accident takes place and everybody ends up embroiled in lawsuits. Work experience has similar challenges. Who is liable for the student injured in the machine shop or the student who falls of a ladder in the backroom of a skateboard shop. Not to mention the more insidious possibilities. The vast majority of teachers would never offend against a student– could we say the same about all the employees, employers etc. out there. And who is liable if a student is assaulted in a work experience or some type of “flexible” learning. I wonder what level of risk the government is willing or should take on in these areas. Flexibility is certainly a worthwhile goal but we must not ignore the issues of liability. Of course, it would be right to point out that we do things like work experience now and liability has yet to prove to be too much of a barrier. However, what we are talking about is different in scale. True that in 99 out of 100 or even 999 out of 1000 cases everything might go ok but if you are taking about 100 000 students it is a different story.

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Thanks for your comment, Kevin. As we introduce more flexibility and choice into our education system, students may indeed spend more time off school property in other places of learning. School districts will need to think carefully about what that means in terms of safety, security and liability. And, districts will likely continue to require parent consent for off campus activities organized by the school.

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      • Kevin says:

        The way I understand it is that parent consent is actually no defense against liability as the rights of a minor can’t be signed away so to speak. A few years ago many schools/districts stopped down hill skiing after a lawsuit which was successful despite parental consent. If a relatively common event like downhill skiing can’t go ahead how much more problematic is heavy metal fabrication or construction. Even more importantly are we going to criminal records check everybody who works with students in these varied environments. One of my first jobs was bussing tables in a chain restaurant. Two of the cooks had convictions for violent sexual offenses and management certainly didn’t let us staff know despite the fact these cooks regularly closed the restaurant working with one or two 16 and 17 year old severers alone. Now when there inevitably was a problem it was handled none to well through the various WCB or whatever agencies. However, if that is my 15 year old daughter getting credit for work experience or flexible learning credits or whatever, who is liable. Do I sue the school district for not properly vetting every employee? Are we really going to run crim checks on everyone working on a construction site? And of course I’ve just focused on the legal side there is the whole psychological impact as well. My point isn’t to say that flexibility isn’t worth pursuing but rather to point out that we have set schools up the way we have for reasons and many of them are good. Much of the conversation on this web site is about what needs to change which is excellent but we also must be wise in how we discard past practice. We must wisely remember then when we discard the physical school we are also discarding the safety and security it represents.

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  37. Madhu says:

    I think it is a great idea to offer flexible learning opportunities as no 2 brains are alike. In addition, I really like the concept that learning outside the school will be recognized. Of course, there will be a time and place for core learning and flexible learning.

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  38. Nancy says:

    More flexible learning opportunities balanced with core content learning will lead to successful students. Some of the benefits of flexible learning, students will enjoy school more, feel happy, and be motivated to learn. Students will achieve personal goals and feel validated. Parent perception of the profession might change a little when they see teachers are choosing to recognize and celebrate individual abilities. The challenges of offering flexible learning for all, might include focus taken away from reading, writing and math development. The budgets and skill sets available, to offer flexible learning to every student throughout British Columbia could also be challenging.

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Hi Nancy. As we’ve mentioned before, flexibility for students will not come at the expense of coverage of core skills and content. These will always be important. What will change, though, is the how, when, where, etc that these skills, plus the 21st century competencies identified elsewhere, are taught.

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      • C. Welch says:

        What is the time frame for these changes, Mike? As a long time teacher, your comment that “[w]hat will change, though, is the how, when, where, etc that these skills, plus the 21st century competencies identified elsewhere, are taught” sounds to me like a massive change. It’s inconceivable that this could take just a couple of years. I won’t even ask about how much extra money will be needed to implement these changes!

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        • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

          Click on the links on our Actions page for the general timelines. These, of course, are subject to change.

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  39. Penny Barner says:

    I believe that any changes made to the system have to be from the bottom up. We should start with preschool/kindergarten rather than revamp the entire K-12 system at once. Once the children start to move up the grade levels, the system can be changed to accommodate their learning styles. That will also help with the costs associated with making the changes, as they will also be incremental.

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  40. Sheena says:

    An action that I do love but will spark an uproar before it`s perfected is the “{B}oards of education will be able to set their own school calendars to better meet the needs of their community“. Year round education works in multiple countries overseas and I`m for it. We would just need to learn to adjust to it. Day care and camps would need to change and this could open up more job opportunities. And if only parents could see they could then go on their family vacations with no hassle in the fall, winter or spring rather than being confined to only the summer or winter break. I also believe attendance will increase.

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    • Bev says:

      Our district has one elementary school on an altered or year round calendar. It has proven to be very popular with parents and students alike. So popular that it is very difficult to get your child into this school unless you happen to live in the catchment area AND already have another child attending that school. The school currently has a relatively small catchment area but due to the growth in that area of our town, the school is over capacity. There is a proposal on the table to reduce the catchment area even further but we’ll see what happens. Due to my work schedule, I would dearly love to have my daughter attend this school. She has been on the waiting list since February, 2011, and there was no possibility of getting her in at the new school year start in September. I’ve heard nothing but positive things about this school and the children that attend do seem to retain their lessons well from term to term.

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    • Kevin says:

      Hi Sheena,

      One of the problems that would arise in our district is that our buildings can’t accommodate students in the warm summer months. Even in June the temperature in the buildings can easily reach levels that make learning impossible…we compensate now for the small amount of time we need to by being outside…retrofitting buildings or air conditioning etc. is not a realistic option. Perhaps in many of the things discussed on this website the barriers are philosophical, common sense or policy but sometimes the barriers are weather.

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      • Stephanie says:

        Kevin, if the school has forced air heat, it would not be that difficult or expensive.
        I think it would be so much better to ask the question about AC in buildings before assuming it would be too expensive. I am sure many of the newer buildings already have AC as part of the clean air systems.
        Also extreme heat is not often a problem in all areas of the province. Having experienced school in southern california, I can tell you there are ways around air conditioning.
        For those schools for whom it is an out of reach expence, the school closes on the days when it is deemed too hot for the students to attend, just as it does when it snows in Victoria and no one can imagine getting to the school.

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    • Tereza Brezinski says:

      I am always very saddened when I hear that we should have year round schooling because it’s more convenient to go on holiday at times other than the summer. Operating word here is “go” – does everybody have money to “go” somewhere? It seems to me that we’d be condemning a large part of the student population to spend many bleak and rainy weeks in Vancouver, while their well-off classmates are off tanning and surfing in the warm places they “go” to.
      I urge everyone to be considerate of those who don’t have the means to leave Vancouver, and for whom July and August may be the only time when they get to spend time in the sun.

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      • Stephanie says:

        Tereza, a balanced calendar has many educational benifits. Ones that taking a two month break simply fall short on. The year round calendar is something that has been around for many years. Many papers have been written on the benifits. One being less review without the long break.
        I don’t get to travel very often, but I would like my children to have the best oportunity to learn, and I feel we have missed the boat being tied to the minstries “farmers’ calendar. As far as I know most kids don’t have to help in the fields in the summer any more. Having two months off just so they can enjoy the sun does not seem like a good reason.

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      • Bev says:

        I agree that there are a lot of people who can’t afford to go away and have winter vacations in warm sunny locations. I am one of them. However, I do have my daughter on a wait list for the one year round school in our district. The reason is that where I work I cannot take time off at the end of December when she is off school. It is also very difficult for me to get time off in June, July, and part of August due to the nature of the business I work at. However, the year round school’s schedule works as three months in school and have all of December off. Then three months in school and have all of April off. Then three months in school and have all of August off. With this schedule, I could take some vacation time off in early December, or in April, or I might even be able to sneak in some in August. We probably couldn’t afford to go away anywhere, but at least I’d be able to spend some time with her at these times, rather than keep her in daycare all summer long like she is now. So for some of us parents, year round schooling would make sense.

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      • Kevin says:

        You’ve raised an interesting point Tereza and probably one that needs it’s own question. Much of this dialogue appears centered on middle class students and makes some assumptions about home support and parent ability to partner with schools. There is also so far little here on special needs students. Just as an example in our school district we have an ever increasing number of FASD students. By putting students into classes we gain efficiencies that allow us to pay for education assistants for some of our FASD students. If we are no longer gaining the efficiencies how do we provide for these extremely needy individuals many of whom have severe anger and impulse control issues. Of course there may be many good ideas about this and perhaps it needs to be its own question. Does personalized learning look different when soio-economics, poverty and special needs are considered?

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  41. Lyn says:

    Flexibility and creativity need to to be in practise from the ‘top’ down to successfully support student choice.

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  42. Dacen says:

    Although I do support a more personalized learning system I approach it with caution. I think it is incredibly important to ensure students are not getting behind in core subjects while they are focusing on their chosen education plan. The danger that I see is students that are unable to read or write or perform simple math equations becasue the education system has allowed them to pursue topics that interest them.

    The system that I see the Ministry of Education working towards is a Montessori system that allows the student to choose the education plan for him/her. This system can be beneficial to the students by keeping interest in school but has the potential to limit the student in future pursuits. I think that the best way to avoid possible limitations is to work out a combined system that ensures that students are not held back later on by the decisions they make early on.

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    • Janet says:

      Why would they not be able to read or write or perform simple math equations because they would be able to learn topics that interest them?

      Who or what would be holding them back later on?

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  43. Stefane says:

    One benefit of offering students more flexible learning opportunities is the self motivation the students will receive when they feel an ability to make choices and take ownership of their learning. Taking ownership of their learning will prepare them well for the future life they will build. There are challenge that arise when flexible learning opportunities are give one of which is how can you ensure that learning outcomes are being reached? I believe that if the students are given the proper tools and support from their teachers, parents and community this can be overcome. I believe it is important that we let the students know that there is an outcome which they will need show they have reached. Their are many ways they could show they have reached the outcome for example; through reflection, journal keeping, video recordings, etc…

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  44. Kathy says:

    Flexibility is desireable for all learning as long as you know where you’re going and why. Are students equipped to make good enough decisions/choices about their learning. Will teachers be accountable for the learning outcomes reached (or not) by each student? Parents are ultimately responsibile for all aspects of their child’s health and education. What are we doing to hold them accountable? Why do we expect modern results from ancient systems?

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  45. K.F. says:

    WHile there are definite benefits AND challenges to offering students a more flexible learning opportunity, I think the benefits far out weigh the challenges. The major benefit is that how we learn is NOT the same for everyone and it doesn’t just take place in the classroom. We need to recognize that and honour that to give our students the best education, learning experience and foundation that we possibley can. The more flexible we are the more of a chance we have of reaching each and every student. The flexibility in choice helps for students to take ownership in their learning and find ways to make things work for them! Also, allowing this felxibility will help to ensure that those that usually get lost and left behind (students who are gifted and students who struggle) can have their own path and work at their own pace. The only challenge that I can see is that educators and students will both need a lot of support to make this possible. It will be challenging to have a whole class of students all at different stages and all going at different paces. But again, the challenges are nothing compared to the benefits!

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  46. Carol M. says:

    To truly teach flexibility, we need to be flexible. The school system (teachers, district, union) and the parents as well. What a wonderful intention, I applaud anything that promotes creativity, flexibility and enthusiasm especially if the delivery system is a model of that which it desires to teach. Otherwise we will continue to disengage our children as they are quick to recognize when they are being given a mixed message of sincerity. We need to find ways to engage who they are rather than tell them what they “should know and be”. Personally I think less time in ‘structured’ school may provide the avenue for the flexibility needed to persue indidvidual interests that are so rewarding and educational. Again, I acknowledge this requires flexibility and creativity from everyone involved. Let’s be that which we wish to instill in our children, including responsible and willing to do what needs to be done.

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  47. Christina Smith says:

    The benefits of having flexibility and choice include: Students and parents will have more of a choice as to which school they attend, a flexible calendar will work around district and community so that students get time off when it is needed most, online learning is great for high school and allows students to work at their own pace and at times that suits them, and learning done outside of the class will count towards their school learning.
    There are also challenges that come with it and they include: With more choice of school (and when schools are chosen not by proximity) schools may become over crowded and may not have room for student who live close by, it would be hard in an elementary level to use after school activities towards a grade/mark because in high school a sport could count for a PE credit but in elementary that student would have to find something else to do instead of PE (which could be helpful if they are lacking in another area), online courses may not be taken seriously and may be more difficult for students who are average or below in that subject matter.

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  48. Carol M. says:

    IF we wish to raise flexible children, it would make sense to me that we offer teachings in a flexible manner, thus they learn flexibility by living it!

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  49. T.L says:

    Giving students more flexibility in their learning is a really great idea because it will allow students to make their learning “more their own”. I believe that when students are given some flexibility and choice they tend to work harder and produce higher quality of work. The only challenge that I worry may occur is that the teacher may feel overwhelmed by all of the choices that the students have- especially if the students are learning a variety of concepts at different paces.

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  50. Lynne says:

    I think the benefits of offering students more flexible learning opportunities is that we will be less likely to lose the gifted kids. I wish this system was in place for my son. He was an extremely bright child but he fell through the cracks because school was too boring for him. He became the class clown which drove his poor teachers to distraction, and resulted in him being labelled as a trouble maker all the way through school. If he had more of a say in his education, he most likely would have stayed in school and gone on to higher education. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for today’s teachers dealing with oversized classes and a broad array of students with various challenges and learning abilities. I would think the major challenge would be ensuring that all students were learning and developing at an appropriate level and that they were being challenged. It would also be a challege to ensure the students have strong critical thinking and problem solving skills. It doesn’t hurt either to teach kids basic skills they can use without the necessity of technology to hold them up.

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