I love the first day of school! It’s a joyous event and full of promise. Yes, there is the occasional tear, but during those first days, the anticipation of the coming year is palpable and so filled with hope. At this time I always ask: are we adequately preparing Bennington, Rolph, Bessborough, Northlea and Leaside students for the world that will be theirs as they leave school?
Children entering JK this year will enter the workforce around 2036. Is the TDSB preparing them for the skills and attributes they’ll need in an era of swift and radical change? How must schools change? It’s these big picture questions that trustees must consider, along with dealing with busing, budgets, school organization, HR issues, etc.
During the school year I have little time for reflection, but this summer I considered the words of three leaders on the future of education: Dr. Yong Zhao (renowned educator); Dr. Yuval Noah Harari (respected historian); and Sir Ken Robinson (international advisor on education in the arts). Each approached the future of education from a different perspective.
Despite the differences, all three agree that because of the pace of change we need a revolution in education, not just an evolution. They believe that learning is not linear (progressing through the grades) but organic. Rote learning is definitely out and standardized testing reveals how students conquered past or present proficiencies – not those needed for the future. All agree that today’s students and schools must be flexible and ready to deal with constant change.
So are Leaside schools meeting these challenges? Math and science will continue to be important in the future, but taught throughout the day as part of our growing STEM curriculum (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
Bessborough has led the way in STEM. At Bennington the principal sees her students as future leaders and ensures opportunities to grasp the concepts of social justice and communications at an early age. At Rolph, along with other schools, environmental science education, reflects the concern for the future where resource management and future technologies are central. Northlea focuses on encouraging creativity – an absolute necessity in our future world. At Leaside High their programs, clubs, and teams include all previous concepts while unfortunately still operating within an organizational structure instituted for a different time and place. Our high school students are taught to question the omnipresent media – to be leaders, critical thinkers – and to question previously assumed truths, about sexuality, poverty, governments, science, etc.
The energy created on the first day of school needs to continue to fuel the difficult task of change needed for creating a future-thinking and relevant education system. After all, our children deserve only the very best.