Bill 36 removes the requirement for School Boards to follow the standard school calendar, and most importantly allows the Minister to change, through regulation, the minimum number of instructional hours in the year. It also enables more online and blended learning for all grade levels and the introduction of fees for International Baccalaureate programs.
Although the media has focused on the school year, the scariest part of this legislation is the change to the minimum number of instructional hours through regulation. Here is the actual section of the Bill, which allows the Minister to:
prescribing the minimum number of hours of instruction that a board must offer to students enrolled in the schools in its school district, including prescribing that there is no minimum number of hours of instruction for prescribed classes of students, schools or educational programs;
If parents are wondering what this might look like, then look no further than the changes that have taken place in the delivery of Planning 10. In some schools in BC, every grade 10 student goes to the gymnasium once a week for a lecture (this can be in excess of 100 students). There is no or little further instructional time for these students. The remainder of the course is taught through a "blended" model with online components or simply assignments that are done on the student's own time and handed in. The instructional time goes from 400 minutes per week in a class with 30 students, to 80 minutes per week in a class with 100 or more students. Typically this can reduce the teacher hours needed by half.
This already happens at a school in my District, Greater Victoria. Here is the "rationale" for the over-sized class buried on our Class Size report (http://www.sd61.bc.ca/super/Spotlight/September_30th_2011_Class_Size_Report.pdf):
Students meet weekly as a whole group with the two Vice Principals before dividing into smaller groups. Students work independently, frequently in small groups on specific projects. The Vice Principals requested this configuration.
Under Bill 22, teachers will simply be told to accept this configuration and class size. No limits will exist. Under Bill 36, students will simply be told to accept this configuration. No minimum instructional time will exist.
Currently, for any class this large, there had to be smaller classes to compensate, because the School Act had class size averages required. So perhaps there was some rationale for doing this for some classes to enable smaller classes in more challenging subject areas. Now, under Bill 22 and Bill 36, a District can configure as many of these classes as they want.
A brief look at the success rates of self-directed online learning with inadequate instructional time and teacher support shows that these programs are dismal failures. Even with supports distributed learning completion rates are much lower than in a "brick and mortar" school (see for instance, this North Vancouver school report: http://www.nvsd44.bc.ca/en/DistributedLearning44/~/media/Programs/Distributed%20Learning/2010-2011/PDFs/DL%20School%20Plan%20Final.ashx). In the US, where some states are requiring students to take at least one course in an online or blended model, the failure rates are similarly poor.
Independent, self-directed, blended learning works for a small segment of the population. It is not particularly successful for the majority of teenagers. At this age, students need motivation, structure, face to face instruction, and social interaction. Reducing instructional time will worsen student outcomes for the majority of students.
This is all about saving money and gutting the public education system.