Decreasing the number of provincial exams students are required to write and changing the way students are assessed will allow more flexibility in the classroom, says Central Okanagan school district superintendent Kevin Kaardal.

Starting next September, students will only write two provincial exams instead of five, Education Minister Mike Bernier announced Thursday morning.

Teachers will assess Grade 10 science and language arts and Grade 11 social studies in the classroom, while math and literacy provincial exams will still be required.

“I think it’ll be good, because most of the assessments will be teacher-based and driven locally, and therefore can be more authentic in terms of demonstrating what the students know,” said Kaardal.

For example, assessments of social studies and science could be done through projects, demonstrations or research papers, said Kaardal.

“It allows teachers to participate in authentic assessments and students to demonstrate their knowledge in a variety of ways instead of a pen-and-paper test, which isn’t always an authentic way to demonstrate learning.”

The reason for decreasing the number of provincial exams is so that teachers are able to choose the appropriate methods of assessment for their students, said Bernier during a press conference Thursday morning.

“Teachers know their students best and can choose a method to evaluate them that takes into account their strengths and challenges, rather than a provincial exam where students are being looked at simultaneously, being graded at the same level on the same issues,” he said.

Students will also be permitted to choose when they take the two exams, depending on when they feel ready.

“It allows for more flexibility in the readiness of taking the two required exams,” said Kaardal.

A new career education course intended to better prepare students for life after high school will also be introduced. The career education course will replace the current Graduation Transitions and Planning 10 courses.

“I think it’ll give students the opportunity to really explore more deeply careers they’re interested in,” said Kaardal.

Course details have yet to be determined, he said.

The final change to the curriculum will start with a consultation period with parents concerning report cards.

“Starting lake June to October, parents will be consulted on what they want to know about how their child is progressing in school and how they want to receive that information,” said Bernier.

About 300 classrooms in the Central Okanagan school district are already using a Kelowna company called Fresh Grade for real-time sharing and reporting on student progress, said Kaardal.

Having programs such as this or other ways of updating parents electronically on their children’s progress is where education needs to go, he said.

“You can have an ongoing conversation with the teacher about your child’s progress,” he said. “It’s going to have a greater impact than three reports in a year.”

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation expressed general support of the changes to the curriculum, with concerns about the timeline and funding.

“In order to successfully implement the revised curriculum, teachers need more time, in-service training and funding for the necessary resources," the teachers union said in a news release.

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