Today's guest post is from David Komljenovic, Kamloops teacher
After researching more about the origins of the BC Education plan and the proliferation of the 21st century learning mantra, I am more convinced that our message could be "BC Public Education is not for sale".
From the information to follow, there is evidence that corporations and primarily one has benefitted from the underfunding and undermining of public education. My sense is that when government attempts to create crisis in education, corporations give the appearance that they need to come and pick up the pieces. Difficult to do in BC which ranks as one of the best in the world. But the BC Ed plan may be the equivalent to the premise of Snobelen's infamous speech on "manufacturing crisis" in Ontario's public education system.
Pearson Education is the largest corporation in the education market (not that there should be a market in public education - but...). With the recent move to provide districts and charter schools in the US with personalized learning options, consider their creep into Canada and BC.
First, consider what Pearson is doing in the field of Personalized Learning (http://www.pearsoned.com/
pearson-and-knewton-partner- to-advance-next-generation-of- digital-education/). In the attached article, the company Knewton joined up with Pearson to provide a diagnosis tool for students proficiency (enter Standardized Testing). If you wondered how standardized testing fits with the BC Education Plan, consider the market for standardized tests and how corporations will say that they are just using them as a toold to diagnose learner need so that their program can be personalized. The program is also a product that can be provided by Pearson or Knewton or perhaps another corporation.
Second, Pearson is involved in taking over the international assessments (PISA) that consistently rank Finland, Canada, and South Korea at the top - more egalitarian and/or cooperative systems compared to the rest of the jurisdictions. (http://www.pearson.com/media-
1/announcements/?i=1485). What will corporate control of the assessments mean - haven't put my mind to that question but it is a concern.
Then consider that Pearson has taken over BCeSIS. Again, a manufactured crisis - as if BCeSIS was even necessary. It was forced upon districts who spent countless funds and ended up being a failure. Here comes Pearson to the rescue to take over the program to replace it with BCeSIS. Consider this article from the Vancouver Sun: http://blogs.vancouversun.com/
2010/11/17/bcesis-and-pearson- education-better-for-teachers/ . Enter Bill 3 - the attempt by government to eliminate privacy protections that were in place before (https://www. privacyassociation.org/ publications/2011_10_21_ opinion_bc_bill_could_ threaten_privacy/) . The government will have a greater ability to collect information on individual citizens and share the information with other agencies (Homeland Security in the US is a concern - so it providing the information to corporations like Pearson which will have access to the software system with just about all of a student's information anyways).
In terms of Personalized Learning in BC (which is the BC Education Plan), Pearson has already met with various districts to help provide services. Consider this article: http://www.
The icing on the top for government, they can say all of this necessitates them gutting our collective rights and have us worry about that while they are accelerating the sale of public education. But the real agenda, in my mind, is having corporations come in and provide (and control) funding where the government (and really the people of BC) should be stepping in.
Educational philosopher John Dewey stated "Democracy must be born anew in each generation, and education is its midwife". Media control in Canada is a concern in that few corporations control a fair bit of information, but education is all about thought. Personalized learning as a marketed program that is provided by one or two major corporations will provide one or two versions of thought - which is why the fight for professionalism is more important now than ever before.
So while teachers have been told we cannot wear buttons or place materials on bulletin boards to express thought, a major corporation will soon have unlimited access to children for what reason other than to exploit (consider the premise in the film "The Corporation" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Pearson's drive to control the world's educational needs cannot help but undermine what public education is meant to serve - which is a diversity of thought without control of any one opinion.