Since 2001, the Liberal government in British Columbia has been systematically devising a “plan” to propel children into a new virtual reality called—public education. The BC Education Plan will transcend the current public education system , by replacing existing teachers whose habitual practices of “differentiated instruction” and “student-centered learning”, which is clearly out-dated and “un-proven,” with something much more reliable and dynamic than human interaction—computers. The government’s Premier Technology Council (PTC), which was established in 2001, claims this educational system will meet the demands of an ever-growing “knowledge-based society” in British Columbia.
The PTC was created in 2001 to advise the Premier on technology related issues. Former British Columbia Premier Hon. Gordon Campbell was Chair of this Council, and the remaining 20 members of the PTC are leaders of British Columbia’s technology industry and “senior levels of the academic sector”. Obviously, the PTC included membership from the academic sector for the purpose of transforming public education and traditional learning environment into a hard-wired computer lab. Interestingly enough, the current Premier of British Columbia, Hon. Christy Clark, acted as Deputy Premier under Hon. Gordon Campbell who again was the Chair of the PTC. In 2002, the same year the British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) Collective Agreement was up for renewal, Christy Clark acted as the Minister of Education. And consequently, the BC teachers were forced to strike due to “unconstitutional legislation designed to restrict the bargaining rights of teachers.” The Supreme Court ruled that the Public Education Flexibility and Choice Act legislated by Christy Clark in 2002, breached the Charter rights of the province’s teachers, and that the government intended to use a teacher strike for not only political gain, but to weaken the BCTF by “driving a wedge between teachers and the [union]”.(Globe and Mail) If the government can dissolve the BCTF, then teachers will have no choice but to either accept their new role as “facilitator” rather than “educator”, or find alternative employment, because the current Education program of BC Universities is changing to prepare undergraduates for the virtual classroom, which they will accept for an entry level salary.
In June 2011, the BCTF Collective Agreement once again came up for renewal, and the government it has repeatedly refused to negotiate fairly with the BCTF. It has been 2.5 years now, and the teachers are still fighting for a Collective Agreement in 2014. Yet, what the public does not know, is that the PTC produced a document in 2010 called “A Vision for 21st Century Learning” (21 CL)—a year before the BCTF Collective Agreement expired. This 21 CL outlines the framework for the BC Education Plan, with an emphasis on personalized learning through technology. Ironically, the “Partnership for 21st Century Skills”, a national organization in the United States, is a “driving force” behind the push for the BC Education Plan– Globalization. Now according to the 21 CL agenda, the teacher will no longer be expected to teach content, but to teach the “skills” students will need to “teach themselves” instead. In fact, the document clearly states that: “measurement of [student] success will be related to how they find, use and develop accurate, relevant content.” (p2) In other words, the government curriculum will be based on “technological competencies” rather than traditional prescribed learner outcomes based on content and knowledge.
I fear the BCTF job action for a Collective Agreement based on the “old system” of education will not end well for the teachers. The government has invested too much time and public funds to organize a plan for 21 CL and to restructure University Education programs which will reflect the new era of “education” in this province. They are not prepared to lose this battle. I am reminded of something Albert Einstein once said. He predicted the replacement of human interaction with technology when he said: “I fear the day technology surpasses human interaction… the world will see a generation of idiots.”
A Vision for 21st Century Learning. (2010, January 1). BC Ministry of Education. Retrieved January 1, 2014, from https://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/dist_learning/21century_learning.htm
Hunter, J. (2014, January 27). Analysis: Court ruling a major blow to Clark’s strategy with teachers . The Globe and Mail. Retrieved June 23, 2014, from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/analysis-court-ruling-a-major-blow-to-clarks-strategy-with-teachers/article16536749/
BC Education Plan. (2011, January 1). BC Ministry of Education. Retrieved May 25, 2014, from http://www.bcedplan.ca/
Shaina Macalister has worked as a teacher for the past 8 years in BC, and has a BEd from University of Alberta, where she also worked as a Cultural Ambassador and researcher. Shaina co-developed GRAPE Vine: Girls for Relational Aggression Prevention and Education mentorship program, and worked as the Social Responsibility Coordinator for School District 5 in Cranbrook, BC.
Image Credit – Classroom ipads by Joe Duty. https://www.flickr.com/photos/jduty/6884301526/