British Columbia

B.C. students to write fewer provincial exams

The Ministry of Education has announced changes to how B.C. students are assessed — a move designed to complement its three-year curriculum overhaul.

Ministry of Education says students will only have to write two provincial exams instead of five

B.C. students will only have to write two exams testing writing skills and math instead of five starting this summer. (Vincent Kessler/Reuters)

In addition to a revamped curriculum, B.C. students won't have to write as many provincial exams under changes in how students are assessed announced Thursday by the Ministry of Education.

The changes, which are due to take effect next year and this year during summer school, include:

  • Fewer provincial exams: instead of five exams, there will be two. Students will be assessed on core math and writing skills during their graduation program years. 
  • More classroom assessment: instead of provincial exams, courses like science, social studies and language arts will be assessed in the classroom.
  • New course requirement for graduation: a course on career education will be required at the start of the 2017-18 school year.
  • Potential changes to report cards: parents will be consulted on the content and format of report cards during June to October, with potential changes coming afterwards.

Education Minister Mike Bernier says Grade 10 math and Grades 10 to 12 literacy concepts will be the only subjects to be formally tested starting in the next school year.

He says the focus will remain on the basics of reading, writing and math despite criticism from some parents who said students need, for example, more foundational math skills.

B.C. Teachers' Federation president Jim Iker said in a statement he supports the reduction in provincial exams, which he said "have tended to narrow the curriculum ... and have a negative impact on students' motivation".

However, Iker said the changes shouldn't be rushed. He also called for a "meaningful monetary commitment." 

Modernizing the curriculum

B.C. is in year two of a three-year transition to a new curriculum, which was implemented by the Ministry of Education to "modernize" the education system.

During the current 2015-2016 academic year, teachers had the option to use the new curriculum in kindergarten to Grade 9.

The new curriculum will be mandatory for the 2016-2017 year for K-9; by the 2017-18 academic year, it will be completely integrated into the K-12 program.

As part of the changes, the ministry has committed to including more Indigenous content — with a special focus on the history and legacy of residential schools — as well as new content dealing with the experiences of South and East Asian immigrants to the province.

The Ministry says the new curriculum will include flexible learning environments — where students can learn in the field — and put a greater focus on complex skills like critical thinking and communications.


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