In 2010, Alberta’s Ministry of Education unveiled a report entitled, “Inspiring Education.” It was the result of a three year long conversation with thousands of Albertans on what the future of education in Alberta should look like. The 51 page report presents a vision for education and deals mainly about how we need to shift from content to competencies within our classrooms. Although everyone with the education sphere may have heard of Inspiring Education, I have not heard much from voters about this vision of our education system.
I think it deserves better than that. Education is changing and too many people fear those changes because it is so different than what they experienced in their own youth. This is why this report is so important. It presents a vision that thousands of Albertans have created together. If we can agree with this vision, then the shortcomings of our current system will become more apparent and we will be much more likely to support change. Without support from all stakeholders, this vision will never become a reality, and that would be a pity.
So, what exactly is this vision? I will attempt to condense the report down to what I believe are the essentials. At the forefront are specific qualities and abilities that we want our children to possess by the time they graduate from high school. They have been summarized as “the Three E’s” of education. They are (and I quote directly from the report):
- Engaged Thinker: one who thinks critically and makes discoveries; who uses technology to learn, innovate, communicate, and discover; who works with multiple perspectives and disciplines to identify problems and find the best solutions; who communicates these ideas to others; and who, as a life-long learner, adapts to change with an attitude of optimism and hope for the future.
- Ethical Citizen: one who builds relationships based on humility, fairness and open-mindedness; who demonstrates respect, empathy and compassion; and who through teamwork, collaboration and communication contributes fully to the community and the world.
- Entrepreneurial Spirit: one who creates opportunities and achieves goals through hard work, perseverance and discipline; who strives for excellence and earns success; who explores ideas and challenges the status quo; who is competitive, adaptable and resilient; and who has the confidence to take risks and make bold decisions in the face of adversity.
I want to make it clear that focusing on the “Three E’s” by no means implies that the “Three R’s” (reading, writing, and arithmetic) will be tossed out the window. In order to develop critical thinking skills, communicate effectively, or explore ideas, students must have certain basic skills that will not diminish in importance. What will change is how those skills are developed and used in the classroom. Those skills will become a means to an end, not an end in and of themselves.
In order to create an educational system designed to foster these “Three E’s,” the report identified six values that should always be considered when making any decisions about education. These are (and again I quote):
- Opportunity – Learners are exposed to rich learning experiences that enable them to discover their passions and achieve their highest potential.
- Fairness – Learners have access to the programs, support services, and instructional excellence needed to achieve desired outcomes.
- Citizenship – Learners have pride in their community and culture. They have a sense of belonging and work to improve both the community and the world.
- Choice – Learners have a choice of both programs and methods of learning.
- Diversity – Learners’ differing needs, cultures, and abilities are respected and valued within inclusive learning environments.
- Excellence – Learners, teachers, and governors achieve high standards.
Sounds good so far, doesn’t it? How could anyone have a problem with any of that? High standards, rich learning environments, more choice. Great! However, many people don’t understand what changes will need to take place in order to actually make it a reality. Some areas where change could occur are presented throughout the Inspiring Education report and include:
- Role of the teacher: teachers will oversee learning activities rather than transmitting facts.
- Curriculum: should be less restrictive in order to allow students to pursue their passions.
- Technology: needs to support innovation and discovery and should not just be a teaching aid.
- Governance: should have a greater representation of stakeholders responsible for decision-making.
- Personalization: students learn in different ways and at different speeds and should not necessarily be grouped by age and grade.
- Credentialing: required hours of study may lose relevance as we focus more on whether or not the competencies have been mastered.
Starting to feel a twinge of doubt now? Change is hard. It is especially hard in the field of education because it’s our children’s futures that are at stake. But, change is needed. The world is changing faster than ever before. We can no longer stand still while doing the same things as always, and expect our children to be prepared for what lies ahead.
If our educational system can succeed in creating engaged thinkers and ethical citizens who have a true entrepreneurial spirit, we will have truly made the world a better place for everyone. I encourage you to read the report and share this vision with others, so that when these new ideas are presented, you will know what we are trying to achieve. A better education for our children, and a better future for all.
- Donors List
- Survey Responses