BC Asia-Pacific curriculum aims to bring international perspective to high schools

Good initiative and will be interesting to see how it develops and how it deals with more controversial historical issues in the region:

B.C. schools will be the first in Canada to get Asia-related curriculum material to teach in history and socials classes through a new program that may eventually be rolled out nationwide.

The Asia-Pacific Curriculum, a $500,000 pilot program funded by the Asia Pacific Foundation and the province, launched Thursday with a website that contains teaching material to be incorporated into classes for Grades 6 through 12.

The program will also provide workshops for educators to help them teach children more effectively about understanding cultures and issues in various countries across the Pacific.

“There is very little that’s more important to the future well-being of British Columbians over the next 10 to 20 years than our people’s ability to deal with Asia,” said Asia Pacific Foundation chairman David Emerson. “You can see from recent and historic events that our relationship with the United States will always be very important, but it’s volatile. And when you think long-term, inter-generational benefits and the need for B.C. to economically diversify, there’s no market that’s going to be more important than the Asian market.”

Currently, the asiapacificcurriculum.ca website features profiles on South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines and India, as well as two key topics — China’s one-child policy and a history of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. The topics were chosen after consultation with the B.C. Social Studies Teachers Association, said Eva Busza, vice-president of research and programs at the Asia Pacific Foundation.

Busza noted that teachers want topics with a link to current events — China’s one-child policy was recently loosened after decades of strict enforcement, while the Khmer Rouge issue highlights how to deal with reconciliation, a topical point of discussion for Canadians.

Engaging teachers on what to include in the curriculum is crucial, she added, because the program is voluntary.

“Teachers have indicated to us that they want this information, and that they see this as a gap (in the current curriculum),” Busza said. “We wanted to make sure they own this work, so we’ll be doing a lot of work with the teachers in the summer, before these modules are launched in the classroom, so that their comfort level with the material is high.”

Future topics will include a history of the ongoing territorial disputes over certain islands in Northeast Asia, as well as recent controversies around South Korean textbooks. Program officials said they hope to extend the program beyond high school, and across Canada.

Brenda Ball, senior school director at North Vancouver’s Brockton School and a social studies teacher, noted that there had been a gap in Asia-Pacific studies in B.C.’s high school curriculum, but much of that has been addressed with the new provincial curriculum being implemented now.

The key for the success of the new program, Ball said, is accessibility for the teachers who want it.

“I grew up in an era where I was being taught history that was predominantly Euro-centric, and some of the publications used are still fairly Euro-centric. The only way we can make that change is if we have access to the new material.

“I think the more material, the better. And having access to free material is always welcomed by teachers, because money isn’t always endlessly available.”

Surrey Muslim School principal (and former social studies teacher) Ebrahim Bawa said his school has already begun adopting portions of the material appropriate for younger students at the K-7 institution. He urged organizers to expand the program to elementary schools as early as possible.

“If you can adapt it down to the elementary level, it is something that — especially in the Lower Mainland — a lot of kids will be able to relate to, because of the large Asia-Pacific population,” Bawa said. “If the program is marked well — if you notify the individual school principals, because they will be the ones setting the direction for the schools — this would have a higher uptake than if you leave it to individual teachers.”

Source: BC Asia-Pacific curriculum aims to bring international perspective to high schools | Vancouver Sun

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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