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Teachers in BC to Devote One Professional Development Day to Aboriginal Education

imagesCanada’s education minister announced on Friday that teachers in British Columbia will devote one of their professional development days next year to aboriginal education.

This much needed change coincides with government plans to introduce school curriculum changes that focus on First Nations culture and history, including the discriminatory residential school system.

This is the first time that aboriginal education is the sole focus of a professional development day, a day where teachers gather for conferences without their students in class.

Students as young as 10 will soon be taught that past government policies towards Aboriginal Peoples resulted in the crushing legacy of Canada’s residential-school system. Starting in Grade 5, students will learn about residential schools and other racist government programs, such as the Chinese Head Tax, as part of a new kindergarten-to-Grade-12 education curriculum.

The recent Truth and Reconciliation Commission report into Canada’s residential school experience recommended the creation and funding of aboriginal-education legislation. After six years of hearings, the report concluded Canada’s residential-school system was a form of cultural genocide.

The education minister said in a statement “B.C. is committed to improving education outcomes for aboriginal students and promoting greater understanding, empathy and respect for aboriginal history and culture among students and their families through the revised curriculum.”

He signed a protocol agreement Friday with First Nations educators that aims to guide collaboration efforts on aboriginal education.

B.C. will introduce education curriculum changes next year that will see students learn about aboriginal culture and history, but when will these changes be incorporated to all provinces across Canada?

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Finland propose radical overhaul to their education system, would you want your country to do the same?

Image credit: The Guardian

Image credit: The Guardian

Did you know that Finland has one of the best school education systems in the world? According to the PISA rankings by the Organization fro Economic Co-operation and Development, Finland is always near the top for mathematics, reading and science.

Image credit: mgmnt-class.com

Image credit: mgmnt-class.com

Despite being routinely praised, Finland is considering a radical overhaul of their basic education system by abandoning teaching by subject for teaching by phenomenon.  Traditional lessons such as English Literature and Physics are already being phased out among 16-year-olds in schools in Helsinki.

What is this new phenomenon? Well, it involves subjects such as the “European Union,” which encompasses learning languages, history, politics, and geography. The idea is to eliminate the saying that is regularly heard from students everywhere: “What is the point of learning this?” This would mean changing the traditional structure of the schooling day: no more of an hour of history followed by an hour of chemistry. Lessons will draw on a variety of different subjects relevant for the future. 

Pasi Silander, Helsinki’s development manager, says the world has changed with the spread of technology and many of the old ways of teaching have no practical purpose. “Young people use quite advanced computers,” he told the Independent. “In the past the banks had lots of  bank clerks totting up figures but now that has totally changed.”

Many teachers who have been teaching single subjects oppose the changes, and it’s not hard to see why, change on this sort of scale is incredibly daunting. The new system is much more collaborative, forcing teachers from different areas to come up with the curriculum together. 

Marjo Kyllonen, Helsinki’s education manager and the person responsible for reforming the system calls this “co-teaching” and teachers who agree to it get a small bonus on top of their salaries. Kyllonen told the Independent: “There are schools that are teaching in the old fashioned way which was of benefit in the beginnings of the 1900s—but the needs are not the same and we need something fit for the 21st century.”

Later this month, she is proposing that the new system is rolled out across the whole country by 2020. Will the rest of the world follow the Finns’ lead? How would you feel if Canada opted for this new system too?

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