Recently the conversation about our education curriculum has re-surfaced because of changes being made in both Nova Scotia – to add mental health / addictions, and Ontario – to add financial skills.
Here is a paper written by Islander Erika MacDonald as part of her final year of International Development Studies and Political Science at Saint Mary’s University. The paper is her perspective on what needs to be added to our PEI education curriculum. Thanks Erika for letting me share this as a guest post on my blog!
Restructuring the Canadian learning outcomes for grades K-12 is a task that should have been done forty or more years ago. There are many skills missing in the current generation that the previous one was taught through tough times, such as war and poverty, that many young people in Canada have never experienced due to our more developed status in recent decades. Additionally, with the introduction of new technologies such as the internet, information that is being taught in schools is readily available with touch of a button. This means that instead of teaching children the layers of the earth’s crust, we should be teaching them ideas and subjects that aren’t so easily taught by Google. Below are six areas that I believe should be more heavily implemented in curriculum. I have identified which areas of the topic should be implemented at each level of learning and have explained the significance of learning those topics in school.
First off, sex education is not taught early enough in our school system. Being educated about gender and the new wave of gender fluidity and sexual orientation at a younger age, especially because of the major stigma surrounding the subject, would foster much less ignorance in the public. In addition, teaching everyone – boys and girls – about menstruation and reproductive organs together in the middle school before talking about sex could again, lead to reduced stigma around menstruation. Moving forward, in the junior high level, learning about transitioning and what it entails in addition to safe sex practices, including contraception, abortion, consent and masturbation, would build on the previous knowledge and increase understanding. Finally, in the high school level learning about proper communication in relationships, ‘love’, and having open conversations about relationships would be the cherry on top. This area of teaching is most definitely one that needs more attention as we move forward in time. With more knowledge on the topic, I believe that people would be much more open and considerate of the LGBTQ+ community, more aware of issues that do and can arise in a relationship, and most importantly, from my perspective, educate everyone for it to be more acceptable to talk about sex education and to do so in a respectful manner.
Money is the second topic that needs to be taught in schools. Most people in my generation have some understanding of money such as the basics (paying for goods and services, what money looks like, etc.) but with the world of money is forever changing. Most dealings with money today are essentially invisible such as debit and credit cards, loans, and mortgages, thus making our current education on money is outdated. In primary and middle school, we may not need to teach more about money, as learning basic math skills is beneficial to learning the subject, but teaching kids about saving, spending, and bank accounts, would introduce the realm to kids. In the next level, students should learn about taxes, EI and CPP benefits, and interest. The focus, however, should be placed in high school. Learning about loans, mortgages, credit scores, and saving for old age, are all practical skills that everyone needs to learn in order to function in today’s society. For example, the majority of the population needs a car loan in order to purchase a car and without being knowledgeable about how loans work, banks can take advantage and outmaneuver the borrower. This has happened more than people realize in recent years and by educating our future generation about such imminent endeavours, people can be smarter with their money and saving.
Civics is a topic that seems to have been faded out of the school system. Politics are more important than ever in this day and age and more and more people don’t understand the makeup of our Canadian political system or how it works. Many people in my generation also don’t realize that they don’t vote directly for a president or that Canadian Senators have different responsibilities than American Senators along with other basic information that the older generation know in and out from their grade school education. Children at a young age should learn what government is and the basics that government provides for them as citizens. Additionally, learning who MLA’s are and how they are there to listen to concerns. Writing them a letter when they notice an issue in their community or having an MLA come and talk to them for a Q&A would provide basic information that kids should know. In older grades, learning about constituencies, the federal versus provincial systems of government, and about political parties. To build on this, visiting the legislature and following bills that are currently being put through the legislative process or holding a mock election or parliament would teach even more about the process. By educating more people about the process and key players within it, people will be more apt to practice positive voting patterns and thus creating more responsible government.
Yet another subject that is missing from our education system is proper technological etiquette and skills. This is being taught somewhat today, but not in the capacity that would benefit everyone in the long run. Learning to type and to use basic software such as internet browsing and Microsoft Suite seem to be common practice but these skills are mandatory in almost every job in today’s world so why are schools only teaching the bare minimum rather than a solid group of basic skills. Students need to be taught skills such as proper email formation and basic HTML coding to understand how websites are created. Social media management and privacy should also be learned in order for people to know how they’re portrayed online and how to protect personal information to protect from predators. Well I’m not sure which of these should be taught at what levels, but these skills are ones that need to be learned especially in the ever-changing world of technology.
We need to be teaching our children more about mental health. The reason mental health is in the spotlight today is the sheer frustration of people who have suffered for too long and are finally speaking out against the prejudices they face. If more people were educated about mental health and the struggles people who have mental health issues face, then our society would be much more accepting. In early years, teaching kids about emotions, thoughts, and feelings and to talk about the openly, would foster much better communication skills along with the added benefits of being more accepting of diversity. Moving on, learning about different disorders and what they actually entail rather than assuming what they are from media portrayals. Providing information about relaxation, being in tune with your thoughts, and resources such as therapists and psychologists are also something that needs to be taught. Too many people self-diagnose when the issues they’re facing are completely normal but because of the blurred lines of understanding mental health, they go through life undiagnosed or unaware of where to get a diagnosis. Teaching the upcoming generation about mental health would also reduce the intense stigma that has been talked about in recent years.
Finally, every day students should start the day with discussing current events in their community and around the world. By learning and understanding what is going on in the world and connecting it back to your own community, one can learn empathy and understanding for other global citizens. Being a conscious world citizen is also a subject that should be taught alongside this. Responsible environmental practices such as global warming, recycling, renewable energy, and sustainable and local farming, being taught in schools would make the generation being taught this much more knowledgeable about these practices. Also, learning about other countries along with their traditions and cultures, wars and why they happened, and corruption can also lead to a more understanding world.
As much as our generation is looked down upon for being ‘needy’ or ‘self-conceded’, many of these ideas stem from pop culture today. These subject areas are ones that everyone is just beginning to understand in the big picture and in turn they are ones that our children and grandchildren need to understand in order to continue being a progressive and accepting society. Peace education would be laced within these subjects and many of them aim towards becoming a more understanding and cooperative society. Overall, these subjects are just starting to pop up in curriculums today and while it is a gradual change, it is a change towards what our society needs to become. However, if these subjects were fully integrated into our school systems, we would see change much more rapidly, which is exactly what we need.