When students across the province arrived for the first day of school on Sept. 8, they were met with a new approach to learning.
This year marks the start of the provincial government's phasing in of its new K to Grade 9 curriculum. The program for students in Grades 10 to 12 is still being drafted and will be introduced next year. The entire K-12 curriculum will be phased in by the 2017-18 school year.
"We're just really excited to have everybody back," said Lisa McCullough, superintendent of the Sea to Sky School District.
"Our teachers are working really hard on this new approach to teaching and learning."
The new curriculum aims to transform B.C.'s education system into one that better engages students while naturally fostering the skills they need to succeed.
The curriculum's approach is to:
• Reduce the volume and prescriptiveness of the current curricula while still ensuring a consistent focus on the essential elements of learning;
• Allow teachers and students the flexibility to personalize their learning experience to better meet each student's individual strengths and needs;
• Focus less on imparting facts and the information-based details of what needs to be learned and more on the "big ideas" or concepts that students need to master to succeed in their education and their lives.
McCullough said she hopes the community can get behind its teachers as they transition into the new curriculum.
"It's hard work, it's different, and I would really like to see the community back (the teachers), because they've been very forward thinking," she said.
"Our teachers are way ahead, and I would really like to see our families wrap around them and support them in the work they're doing."
Final enrolment numbers were not available before Pique's press time, but McCullough estimated enrolment is up slightly at all of Whistler's schools.
In terms of international students, McCullough said Whistler Secondary is hosting 50, while Myrtle Philip has seven and Spring Creek has two.
Teachers throughout the district were as excited to get back into the classroom as their students, said Sea to Sky Teachers Association president Steve Lloyd.
"Almost no teachers sleep the night before the first day of school, in my experience," Lloyd said with a laugh. "We think of it as New Year's Day."
The excitement was only amplified this year by the new curriculum.
"It's a year of finding out what the new curriculum means for teaching and for students, and there's lots of exploration to go on," Lloyd said. "Teachers are invited to provide lots of input to the new curriculum before it's finalized, and I'm sure that our members are going to be doing that."
Despite the curriculum transition, Lloyd wanted to stress that B.C. schools and teachers are some of the best on the planet.
"Our system is right up there with the best in the world, so try to have a little faith in it and we'll all try to make sure that it's fun for the kids, and we'll learn lots together," he said.
"We've got a very positive thing going in our public schools and we're going to be keeping that going."
According to the provincial government, total funding for school districts for 2015/16 will reach $5.06 billion this year.
Coming off an extended labour dispute that delayed the start of the 2014/15 school year, this year the focus will be entirely on education, said new minister of education Mike Bernier in a release. He will be visiting the Sea to Sky district next week.
"This year, with stability in the classroom, it's a great opportunity for the B.C. government to focus 100 per cent on students," Bernier said.
More than 100 teachers and education experts worked together for three years to create the flexible learning curriculum according to the ministry.
Report cards with letter grades assessing student achievement will remain integral parts of the new curriculum.
To read more about the province's new curriculum, head to www.curriculum.gov.bc.ca.
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