Altering the school calendar is just one piece of the province’s new education legislation as the head of the local teachers’ union sounds the alarm against a move toward more online learning.
The new bill does away with the minimum hours of classroom instruction, which Kamloops-Thompson Teachers’ Association president Jason Karpuk believes is a move toward more Internet class time.
“That is a concern for us,” Karpuk said Friday. “There’s less time that’s required to be in the classroom, which then allows for more online teaching time.”
Education Minister George Abbott introduced legislation on Thursday that will eliminate the standard school calendar and allow boards of education in B.C. to offer alternative scheduling options.
Abbott also proposed amendments to the School Act that would give students in all grades — from kindergarten to Grade 12 — the ability to take a mix of online and traditional school courses. Currently, only students in grades 10 to 12 have this option.
From a teachers’ perspective, students benefit from more classroom time, not less, Karpuk suggested.
He said educators see a greater failure rate among pupils who take online courses, which is unacceptable.
If a child is studying from home and there’s no teacher present, it’s easier for the student to not do the work, he said.
“If kids aren’t completing the courses in due time, we’ve got a problem,” said Karpuk. “The level of responsibility for the kids to get the work done is diminished.”
Not everyone sees the situation that way.
Judith Murray, vice president of open learning at Thompson Rivers University, said online learning can be a highly effective tool.
She said the university deals with more mature students but if the courses are developed properly and taught by qualified educators, online learning provides a flexible option.
“You have to design the course material and the exercises and activities to be engaging to the learners,” said Murray.
She said the world has entered the digital age and schools need to keep up with the times.
Kamloops-Thompson School District assistant superintendent Karl de Bruijn agrees. He said the era of chalkboard learning has passed and it’s important teachers, students and administrators realize that.
“We as teachers need to be flexible and change as well,” he said.
Nor does he anticipate students in younger grades will be offered online courses, said de Bruijn. Digital learning works for some students, but not all.
Karpuk said the current method of teaching works well. He sees no point in re-inventing the wheel.