The Vision of the Future


Hazel McCallion Senior Public School
Mississauga, Ontario

By Travis Evenson, Grade 8


By the year 2005, students will be holding a plastic box the size of a loose leaf binder. Below is a keyboard, a microphone and an earphone jack. You may call it a computer -- yet it does so much more.

Imagine tapping into the school network on this machine and skimming through project after project in search of one that catches your eye. An E-mail address is printed on each assignment and some person at the other end receives it, marks it, and then returns it to you.

Picture a 3D teacher projected on your screen which will give you your homework and assignments and guide you along to overcome obstacles. How about watching a space ship launch or a televised trial on your computer while collecting facts for your project?

With this technology, many teachers won't even need to come to school. This will bring down the walls of classrooms everywhere and will alter the notion of school as it is today: a building with classrooms staffed by teachers and occupied by students.

How will the curriculum for this computerized networked society meet our needs and help produce the kind of people Canadians should be in the next century?

Is the present system meeting the need?

In 1994, 145,000 jobs in Canada disappeared for people with high school education or less, while 422,000 jobs evolved for workers with post-secondary education. As the 21st century approaches, the number of these high school level jobs will continue to decline and eventually all jobs will require an advanced, technologically-based education. These new positions will require a higher level of skilled workers.

Is our school system really meeting the needs for the future? Well, according to Killian Crooford, author of 2020 Visions, The Future of Canadian Education, the existing school system does not meet the needs of students and therefore, will not survive. Education in its present state should be dismantled because society has outgrown it.

For thousands of years, people have gone to schools because that was where the knowledge was. But for the first time, the knowledge is now available from many sources -- not just from teachers and classrooms. Now we’re at the point where kids with access to computers can tap into the flow of knowledge and escape teacher control.

Many students are developing technology skills faster than their teachers, which brings us to the point of teachers who are no longer crucial in transmitting information. If students can define their own curriculum and pursue their own goals, do they really need teachers at all? The function of the online educator will be to save students from wasting time, to provide some intriguing challenges and to get students out of the academic "nest" as soon as possible.

There is an increasing amount of violence in our schools, reflecting the violent nature of our society. When computers and fiber optics become as available as the telephone, students will have little reason to congregate in one building and therefore, violence in schools should cease to exist.

The immediate future of education in Peel, Linda Palazzi, Superintendent for the Peel Board says that the curriculum in Peel should be one third about the past, one third about the present and one third about the future. The immediate changes in Peel will be the classroom sizes, salaries, planning time, and support staff. She insists that the focus will be on the best education for the success of all students.

What is in store for Peel in the immediate future? Bill 104 will give unparalleled powers to the Education Improvement Commission headed by Ann Vanstone and Alan Cooke. Nobody can be hired, promoted and no changes made without their approval.

On the horizon will be privatization of schools and home instruction. Parents will be given a voucher and will have choices to make as to the schools their children will attend. Charter schools will develop where parents and teachers buy into a certain philosophy of education. Teachers with disabilities, who are unable to physically come to school, will be able to teach from their homes using telecommunications.

The Peel Board is one of several boards involved in a number of initiatives for the future. One initiative is the Gallery Project. This is a program involving literacy and numeracy in grades 1-3 by immersing students in integrated programs of the arts and information technology. It is a unique project beginning in September 1997 in ten Peel schools that seek to bring together education, business and community resources to enhance learning in the publicly-funded system.

The partners in this project are raising financial resources in excess of $22 million from the private sector, Board of Education and Ontario Ministry of Education and Training to support development and implementation of the project over the three-year term of the project. The Gallery Project places teacher capability at the core of learning quality and seeks to use technology to break down the walls of classrooms to provide access to the world of resources to enhance learning. The mission is to enable every student to strive for personal excellence, to make a contribution to society and to acquire the skills, and attitudes that will prepare him/her for life-long learning and global living.

We must redefine our curriculum for the future to meet the needs of students and help produce good citizens. The curriculum of the 21st century must reflect the small world we actually live in with the advent of technology, the fast pace of communication and the speed at which we travel. For the first time in history, education will need to talk about the future as much as the past and the present. We may not recognize the education of the future because in the next decade education will change more than it has in the last century.

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