Time to engage the next generation 

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Pens, check. Pencils, check. Paper, check.

A bright future for our kids doing the job they want?... not so sure.

This is the time of year when most parents are busy getting the kids ready for school and worrying about the future of their progeny.

But don't stop reading if you think this column is only for parents — it's for everyone who runs a business, is an employee, is looking for work, who hopes for a bright future for Whistler, B.C., and, indeed, Canada.

After all, there is no escaping the fact that each generation relies on the one coming after to keep the community going. We need scientists, doctors, lawyers, engineers, electricians, plumbers, mechanics, teachers and, yes, even politicians if life is to continue to tick along.

As you may have read in my columns past there is a "revolution" of sorts happening in the education system in B.C. I say "of sorts" because many of today's best teachers will tell you they have been teaching in a 21st-century model for years — and there is no escaping that most private schools embraced it a long time ago.

But slowly the realization that kids need a different skill set to excel, heck even survive, in today's faced-paced, technologically advanced world is seeping into family life and the school system.

Students don't need to memorize dates of wars, or the names of leaders in history, or a thousand other minutiae that clog the learning curve. What they need to learn is how to ask good questions, which lead to investigative problem solving, so a task gets done well. They need to read great writing, learn to produce strong writing of their own and they need a strong understanding of basic math and social sciences. They need to learn to work alone and in teams. These are the skills every employer or every entrepreneur is looking for.

Our schools are beginning to embrace this, but for many parents who have the means it's not fast enough. I personally know five students who have left Whistler's secondary school for private school for this reason, four of them this year. Many more have gone in years past. According to last week's Pique (Aug 29) Waldorf has a full Grade 8 class. The new private school in Squamish, Coast Mountain Academy, has 20 students enrolled in its first year and again I know several parents who are looking at it seriously for the coming years.

Sea to Sky school district superintendent Lisa McCullough is passionately committed to embracing the Pathways to Learning Education plan — the name given to the 21st-century learning model in the Sea to Sky.

"In the past, most of the time in the classroom has been about teaching content and then when we had time we worked on the higher order skills like problem solving and decision-making and ethical use of information," McCullough told Pique. "The best way to describe the Pathways to Learning is that has flipped around. Now the lion's share of our time in the classroom is going to be about learning as a process and students learning how to learn decision making, problem solving, critical thinking, hands-on learning and time to create and explore."

This switch has been happening all over. Take for example the myriad of special education programs flourishing in the Lower Mainland. Last weekend the Vancouver Sun profiled some of them. In one case a student, Sophie Mueller-Langer, 14, who dreams of being a professional dancer, goes to school in the morning and dances for the rest of the day and into the evening. "The 'before' Sophie was someone who didn't enjoy school. She did well but she didn't excel.

"It's counter-intuitive — she's away from home so much, she is working so hard and she's tired, and she has no time for her homework. (But) she is doing better," mom Inge told the Sun.

But it's not counter intuitive to many looking at B.C.'s new Education Plan. "I think it is because they are engaged — they are enjoying school and have positive relationships with other students and the teachers," Steve Cardwell, superintendent of the Vancouver School district, told the Sun.

"Research shows that across Canada at least 50 per cent of the students in high school are not intellectually engaged...

"If a student is interested in photography, or if they're interested in sports, or they love fixing cars, or they love writing or they have a strong skill set in a certain area, we need to do our best to provide them with an avenue that will give them a successful experience that is a way for them to develop for the future."


Imagine the level of learning that could go on in our classrooms if most of the students were engaged in the topic?

Imagine how little gets learned right now with at least 50 per cent of the students tuning out, or worse, disrupting the kids who want to learn.



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