Academic journal article Childhood Education

Learning and Teaching in the 21st Century: An Education Plan for the New Millennium Developed in British Columbia, Canada

Academic journal article Childhood Education

Learning and Teaching in the 21st Century: An Education Plan for the New Millennium Developed in British Columbia, Canada

Article excerpt

This article describes how a ministry of education in Canada is responding to new developments in educational thinking related to 21st century learning and teaching. The authors identify challenges with 21st learning aspirations and explore opportunities for reconfiguring schools and education systems. The key competencies identified by the Education Plan of the British Columbia Ministry of Education may serve as a framework for a global paradigm shift in learning, with the potential to transform and personalize learning for all. Based on the foundational elements of 21st century core subjects, themes, and skills, the Education Plan proposes the need for personalized learning for every student, quality teaching and learning, flexibility and choice, high standards, and learning empowered by technology.


Rapidly evolving internal and external factors are changing our global community, the world of learning, and the place of learning in our world (Hannon & McKay, 2010). As a global community, we must respond to the impact of these changes upon parents, children, and schools (British Columbia Ministry of Education, 2011). Gonzalez (2004) reminded us that the amount of knowledge in the world has doubled in the past 10 years; that knowledge is doubling further every 18 months (Meister, 2010). Today, four interactive driving forces seem to dominate education and have led to change in our global community: economy, information technology, cultural diversity, and the environment.

Economy, the first driving force, is a factor due to world markets that are becoming more integrated. People have the potential to change jobs frequently and relocate around the globe, often in response to the need for higher order skills (Taylor, Hoyler, Walker, & Szegner, 2001; Walkenhorst, 2008). Sub-Saharan African countries, Arab States, Central Asia, East Asia/Pacific, South /West Asia, Latin American/Caribbean, North America, Western Europe, and Central / East Europe recognize the importance and positive impact of educational access on grade completion, a second chance of learning for adults and youth, and meaningful employment (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO], 2006). Global economic trends necessitate new work place requirements and a shift in educational expectations and worker skill sets (Aud et al., 2012; Booth, 1999; Heyneman, 1997; Nishimura, Yamano, & Sasaoka, 2008; UNESCO, 2006). This new world thinking contributes to a readjustment of our beliefs and understanding regarding the continuum of learning. Specifically, world scholars are noting that individuals are on a lifelong learning trajectory (Jakobi, 2009), within a social network that offers free content on Facebook, Wikipedia, YouTube, etc.

Information technology, the second force, has changed the way we are able to access, share, store, and disseminate information with the potential to connect with each other almost instantaneously to share ideas at national, regional, and international levels (Dale, 2000; Freeland, 1996). The emphasis is shifting away from formal education toward informal inquiry and personal research (Burnard & White, 2008). Education can be mobilized through online and distance learning (Richardson, 2010), and students can download free educational resources, co-author online, and participate in collaborative learning communities outside of their schools.

Such educational globalization calls for a greater understanding of identity, core values, and cultural priorities (Boyer, 2012, 2013). In a multicultural society that includes many races, religions, languages, customs, and values, the third driving force of cultural diversity is apparent. We are recognizing and appreciating the importance of developing education for and about indigenous peoples (Freeland, 1996). Family structures have also shifted from a nuclear family of father, mother, and children to more diversity, such as blended families, single-parent families, pregnant teenagers, same sex parents, and extended families, as well as those who deliberately choose not to have children. …

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