Yukon students entering Grades 11 and 12 this year will be taught with more flexibility and more localized content under the territory’s new curriculum.
“All Yukon students will now be learning from a more modern, more relevant and more student-centred curriculum with hands-on learning opportunities that incorporate Yukon First Nations language, history and culture,” said Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee in a statement released Thursday.
The curriculum’s implementation is the final update in a multi-year roll-out beginning in 2017 and affecting Kindergarten to Grade 12.
According to Thursday’s release, curriculum updates for Grades 11 and 12 will include these five major changes:
More hands-on learning opportunities for students;
More personalized learning opportunities based on student interests;
More focus on finance, career education and life skills;
More Yukon content and Yukon resources to teach the curriculum; and
Yukon First Nations ways of knowing, doing and being integrated into the curriculum in all subjects and grade levels.
Yukon schools will continue to increase informal communication with parents through email, phone calls and face-to-face conversations.
Teachers are also expected to provide parents with examples of student work, including relevant feedback for improvement.
Information on a child’s work habits and behaviour should be included in report cards as well as informal updates.
New territorial assessments will also be implemented. The numeracy assessment for Grade 10 was implemented last year, and the literary assessment will be implemented this year, and the literacy assessment for Grade 12 is planned for 2021.
According to Paula Thompson, the Education department’s director of curriculum and assessment, the new syllabus will be an improvement for Yukon students.
“We hope students would see a more direct engagement in activities,” she told the Star Thursday.
With increased hands-on and personalized learning opportunities, Thompson says, teachers will have expanded flexibility in how they engage their students.
This could mean increasing classes spent outside, connecting with the land, or using teaching methods specific to the character of the classroom.
“When you hook into what students are interested in, the connections in their brain are able to fire up in a more solid way,” Thompson said. “They’re better able to store that information and retrieve it.”
These personalized methods might be tailored to the entire classroom or to the individual student, Thompson explained.
Students will also have more flexibility in their class schedules.
While core subject areas remain the same, students have a wider variety of options within that area.
For example, Thompson said, some students will have the opportunity to create their own “specialized science” curriculum using elements from multiple classes.
Thompson admitted the greater flexibility will be challenging for teachers, but has faith this challenge will be met.
“Teachers work super-hard and … they keep learning, they keep tweaking, they keep sharing with each other as strategies evolve,” she said. “It’s a pretty dynamic profession, and I think that’s what draws a lot of people (to it).”
Schools will also have a level of autonomy regarding how they implement financial skills, life skills and career options education to their classrooms.
Thompson said smaller schools might choose to offer specialized classes every second year, or integrate the information into existing courses.
A major addition to the Yukon’s curriculum will be an increase in First Nations education.
According to René Dove, the director of First Nations Programs, the territory partnered with Yukon First Nations elders and knowledge keepers to build a guideline for teachers.
Instructors are encouraged to further localize these guidelines using the teachings of the specific Indigenous groups in their communities.
Dove hopes the increased Indigenous education will help combat the comparatively low success rates of First Nations students.
“They (First Nations students) don’t see themselves in the classroom, so they don’t engage,” Dove said. “If they don’t engage, they’re not going to learn.
“We want to close that success rate gap and see their success in life improve.”
Dove added that understanding of Indigenous history is “part of all of our histories” and important for the education of students of all backgrounds.
“Students should know about the lands that we live on,” she said.
According to Thompson, the department has been working with teachers over the last several years to help them get ready for the change. Training opportunities for educators will continue over the course of the school year.
In a word to concerned parents, Thompson clarified that the curriculum changes will continue to meet post-secondary entrance requirements.
The new curriculum was adopted from B.C.’s changes, and has followed a similar timeline.