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Written by:

Steve Borley


November 2, 2017

A trip down memory lane to the Goals of Education back with the old curriculum reminds me that education used to be about developing children into responsible adults able to provide and care for themselves and others while contributing in a meaningful way to society as a whole. The wording was something like: intellectual growth, human and social growth, and economic growth. At some point in the last decade, the Ministry of Education began to realize that the old curriculum was not well suited to the new reality of the 21st century, that technological and social changes were such that the old curriculum and the old ways of educating were not well suited to realizing the goals of education.

A close-up look at the Core Competencies around which the entire new curriculum is built suggests that the old goals are largely being re-branded, reworded; that the goals of education have not shifted radically. Three main areas of Core Competencies exist – two of them specifically aimed at employ-ability skills and academics (Communication, Critical and Creative Thinking). The third one is Personal and Social skills, attitudes, abilities etc.

I would like to begin a series of articles presenting my thoughts on the Core Competencies, and I would like to begin with the Personal and Social set of competencies. For your reference, the topic for this first article is pasted below:

Relationships and cultural contexts
I can describe my family and community.
I am able to identify the different groups that I belong to.
I understand that my identity is made up of many interconnected aspects (such as life experiences, family history, heritage, peer groups).
I understand that learning is continuous and my concept of self and identity will continue to evolve.

In the first cell, you have a general heading under which four descriptors are given which would help a person consider their current status as well as possible personal areas to think about in detail. As a student, parent, adult, teacher, etc considers themselves living in relationship (of whatever sort) and in culture, how does one see oneself in the family and in the community? Am I able to identify different groups I belong to (family, school, team, club, neighbourhood, church, party, etc)? How is personal identity connected to our relationships and our culture? And how will I view myself in a few months, a year, a few years, a decade?

I can envisage many great and meaningful discussions going on in families – perhaps a parent has a “date night” on a regular basis where the parent can focus his or her attention on just one child at a time, perhaps discussions around the supper table are a common occurrence and everyone feels confident to participate, or perhaps there’s lots of driving time where such discussions can occur. The interesting thing about the Core Competencies in the new curriculum is that only Self assessment is expected, encouraged, allowed. After all, does it really matter if a teacher or parent assesses a child’s perceived relationship to and with family? Let me share an example with you.

Many years ago a young family would sit in church weekly and the parents would provide some quiet entertainment for their young children by drawing with and for them. A common theme in the drawings was the family car with the parents and one child in the car while the other child was on top of the car supposedly having the adventure of a thrill ride and calling out “Wheeee” as the car went down the road. The parents perceived this as a happy family with an adventurous, fun loving, thrill seeking child on top of the car while the quieter, more studious, book-loving child rode inside. A decade later, that thrill seeker asked why he never got to ride inside the car. The quiet one has not yet asked why she never got to have any fun, but maybe that question still lingers.

Discussing your child’s perceptions about relationships and culture and his/her place within those seems to be a worthwhile activity. And the curriculum claims to be aimed at allowing a child to consider such things. What a child reads and studies, the skills and subject-area competencies one acquires, the subject areas one focuses on, and even the field trips and events one participates in go a long way towards developing a sense of relationship both to people and to the surrounding culture.

It is my hope that you will find such discussions help you and your child grow in your relationships and selves. As for how this all works with schooling, on the final report card, your child is asked to record some self assessment in the Core Competencies – one or more areas). Over the next few months, I will provide articles like this to as many of the Core Competencies as time permits. As a school, we contemplated focusing on one core competency each term or each year. We decided, instead, to leave the Core Competency choice to families. Who better to assess what to focus on when it comes to self, than self? Children should be encouraged to note that they will never be assessed or evaluated in the Core Competencies by anyone connected to the school. School is a safe place to be and to grow. May your year be a happy one.