Principal Lloyd Lindsay of Columbia Elementary School with returning students, left to right, Lauren Baker, 7, Mattea Tenisci, 6, and Declen Blondin, 6. Students in Penticton are back in class starting today (Wednesday). Mark Brett/Western News

Turning students into learners

Students heading to their first classes at Princess Margaret, Summerland and Penticton Secondary Schools may have to start earlier than older students, but they will get a warm welcome.

“A group of leadership students will be there to show them around the school, talk about it and encourage them to become active in school life,” said Wendy Hyer, superintendent for the Okanagan Skaha School District.

But they will also be a part of a developing shift in the education system, starting with the elimination of most provincial exams.

“The only provincial exam that kids will have this year is the English 12 exam,” said Hyer.

The move is to an English and numeracy proficiency assessment that students can write anytime in their high school years, and they can write it more than once.

“It is not meant to give them a score like in a provincial exam,” said Hyer, explaining that there is a shift in educational curriculum to develop what is called core competencies, like the ability to communicate, to think critically, to analyze, problem solve and work collaboratively.

“All those skills that you need to be successful once you leave school, and using content as the vehicle to develop those competencies,” said Hyer. “The War of 1812, we can Google that and find out whatever we need to know. It is moving away from rote learning and memorization to becoming a critical thinker.”

Not everyone has to be studying in depth about the War of 1812, Hyer explains.

“It is more about what interests kids in that subject area. What do they want to go deeper with? How do they find the knowledge they need? How do they present it? How do they demonstrate their learning? How might they do that collaboratively?” said Hyer. “It is building on students’ strengths. And if you give kids choices, they are more engaged in learning.”

Hyer said this is an exciting time to be an educator, but while the new concepts focus on developing learners, teachers also have to shift their thinking.

“It is a lot more relevant, but it is also challenging. There is going to be lots of learning for everyone,” said Hyer. “It changes the role of teacher from knowledge giver to learning facilitator.”

At the end of the day, she said the focus is on when kids walk across the stage to graduate and they see themselves as a life-long learner.

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