Written by Hao Le
Edited by Grace Brnjac
When we think about curriculum, one common response shared among people is the notion of standards (or goals) that should be reached within a given subject or task. In education, curriculum can refer to the standards and expectations students will be able to reach in a given subject by the end of their school year. As each grade progresses, curriculum expectations will continuously change in order to ensure that each student has a chance to succeed in more than one way. These goals are divided into sections – or strands – that further allow students to succeed. Examples of strands include listening, speaking, researching, writing, etc.
Although curriculum expectations are made to serve as a common framework for teachers across the province, region, and/or state, the path to ensuring that these standards are reached vary greatly, as it is up to teachers to find ways to teach the curriculum within their classrooms and schools. Furthermore, having a standard curriculum outlined for all students in a shared subject and/or grade serves as a great foundation for students to then build upon with their own views of ‘curriculum expectations.’ However, what happens when students are not able to reach these expectations on time? What can teachers, parents, administration, and tutors do to help ensure that every child succeeds? What about students who do not learn well in a traditional school environment; the ones who are led to withdraw from education, or even drop out?
Not all hope is lost for students who do not fit the traditional mould of school and curriculum expectations; rather, it is time for an evolution in regards to the definition of curriculum. What would happen if, instead of general standards and expectations, curriculum had to do more with ensuring that students have the tools necessary to define their own curriculum to what they want to be able to learn within a given time frame? What if curriculum was more of a tool to help students learn to critically assess, define, and shape their own visions of success?
At Le’s Academy, we work to ensure that students and parents understand what the Ontario Curriculum expectations are for each grade and subject. However, we feel that another necessary step to success entails letting both the parents and the kids themselves have a role in student learning. We feel that this self-initiative is needed to help students become inspired, curious, and initiative-takers within society. Curriculum standards are designed to help define the achievement standards for approximately 70% of all students; hence Level 3 and/or B-ranged students would be meeting the pre-outlined standards of achievement. However, this becomes difficult for students who may not have the aptitude or skills needed to reach this level. This brings us back to the question of students, who are genuinely bright and curious to learn, but their work repeatedly shows traditional school systems and traditional curriculum standards and expectations are not helping them succeed. As educators and parents, it is never pleasant to hear stories of students who had such potential dropping out when they reach high school, or worse, students who feel they are not worthy or smart, or even ones who develop low self esteem because they cannot figure out why they are not able to keep up with their peers. If curriculum expectations were designed to center more on learning skills and other skills necessary for students to build themselves up to such a level where they can be autonomous learners within all subjects, then there may no longer be the risk of students being failed by the traditional school systems.
There are many examples within society of people who dropped out of school, but were able to attain success in pursuit of their passions and interests. Let us look at the examples of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates: both men, and others people like them, knew how to redesign the definition of curriculum to help foster the growth of their skills and aptitudes needed to help them succeed. Both men were under the traditional curriculum models in school and were given a foundation needed to help them grow. Although they dropped out of their programs of study, these men were able to go as far as they have because they learned how to define their own goals. If they had stayed within school, it is safe to say they may not have been able to have this much success, as they couldn’t learn to define what curriculum expectations they wanted to see themselves reach.
In the end, it is critical for students to be exposed to both definitions of curriculum – that which is found presently in schools, as well as our Academy’s view of curriculum – as it will be critical in the development of their personalities. By allowing students to reflect on what goals they want to reach in a subject or topic, students will be able to develop critical-thinking skills necessary to help them reach, not only the ministry’s curriculum expectations, but also their own personal goals as well. As students continue to then strive to better themselves, they will be able to design their own learning path to success without fear of not being at a general standard.