Sask. Rivers School Division begins provincial curriculum review

Financial planning, Indigenous languages, and course flexibility were just some of the items up for discussion as Saskatchewan Rivers School Division trustees began their deep dive into a provincial curriculum review.

The Ministry of Education asked for feedback from provincial school boards several weeks ago, with the goal of identifying any areas that need addressing. Sask. Rivers trustees held their own discussion at Monday’s board meeting.

Education Director Robert Bratvold said the review will likely continue into next year. Any changes likely won’t be implemented until 2024.

During Monday’s meeting, several trustees said they’d prefer high school students have more flexibility in their schedule. That could mean fewer required courses, or giving students multiple course options that all fulfill the same requirement.

Bratvold said the school division offers a wide-array of classes for students, but the current provincial curriculum can be too restrictive, making it difficult for high school students to get the exact classes they want.

“There is some limitation, and some of it has to be there because that’s the nature of the educational system,” Bratvold explained. “But, there is very little flexibility…. If (students) know they have to take these 16 courses to graduate, and they have to take these other four courses to get into a field they’re aiming for, that doesn’t leave a lot of flexibility on their time-table. It’s pretty limiting.”

“Not everyone can follow the exact same path to that Grade 12 graduation,” he added. “It will serve students better if there is flexibility. Some students might take these required courses to get to their career outcomes, and another group of students might take a different set of required courses. There is probably some overlap between those two groups, like a Venn Diagram. There’s going to be some (classes) that all students will take, but we’re hoping for some flexibility so that kids can take courses that are meaningful, relevant, and rigorous.”

Trustees also discussed the need for new courses that help students learn about mental health, teach financial planning, or learn Indigenous languages like Cree, Dene, Dakota and Michef.

Bratvold said there’s a significant demand for “robust classes” in those areas, and schools and families both have a role to play in providing that education to students.

The demand for personal finance courses in particular has steadily grown over the past 10 or 20 years.

“There’s a lot more information available out there, some good and some not so good, and so the demands for financial literacy have increased,” Bratvold said. “There are significant elements to many math courses—and other courses too—that include financial literacy, but one of the challenges is, those are not necessarily required courses, and so not all of our students experience them.”

There are a few challenges that could prevent adding those classes to the curriculum. Bratvold said students may take and pass courses like personal finance, but without internalizing the information. The question is just how soon schools should start teaching these subjects.

“Sometimes students just don’t see the relevance or importance of it when they’re in Grade 10 or 11 or even in Grade 12,” Bratvold explained. “You might take the course. You might pass the course, but you didn’t really internalize it effectively. There’s some importance to that.”

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