Is public education fading in relevance to today’s young learners?

As the Deputy Minister of the Anglophone Sector of New Brunswick’s public education system this question haunts me every day. My senior management team and I recognize that rapid advancements in information and communication technologies in the “Knowledge and Innovation Age” are dramatically impacting economies, societies, governance models, and individuals. Authors such as Thomas Friedman (The World Is Flat) are helping us comprehend the breadth of the changes that are sweeping digital planet earth.

In this, the globalization era, many economic, social and environmental opportunities and challenges now require global solutions. Outsourcing and collaboration across virtual networks are becoming mainstays of businesses needing to be constantly innovative to stay competitive and relevant to their customers.

How is public education adapting to these new realities and are we adjusting fast enough to keep apace. Are we going about preparing our youth for life in the 21st Century the right way? 

 Many of today’s targeted learning outcomes and instructional practices are antiquated and ill-suited for this new reality. Too many outcomes in curricula are forcing teachers to focus on content coverage versus depth of understanding. Meanwhile, most students have to “power down” when they enter school environments, ill-equipped to meet their learning styles and technological prowess.

A growing number of today’s digital kids are disengaging from their learning citing boredom and lack of relevance. At the same time, many believe students are graduating without the skills needed in today’s society and are calling for a significant shift in the learnings and pedagogy our youth are being offered in our public schools.   

In New Brunswick we believe we are well positioned to respond and we invite you to join us on our journey in shifting our public education system to a 21st Century learning model. We call our emerging strategy NB3-21C. And of course, the great enabler will be an ICT plan designed to provide our students with technology rich learning environments aligned with our learning agenda. In future articles we will outline the specifics of NB3-21C and keep you apprised of our latest thinking and progress as we become 21st Century “shift shapers”.

We wish to share our experience but we are also self-serving in this regard. The truth is we need your help. In a world where a hallmark of success will be how effectively we collaborate and share our “creativity and thinking skills”, in each article we hope to pose one Big Question designed to solicit your assistance in addressing a challenge we are facing, with the hope that someone out there has an innovative approach or answer. 

We congratulate ITBusiness.ca on the launch of their new blog site and appreciate their invitation to be active participants. We look forward to posting future articles as well as receiving your feedback.

 As Deputy Minister for the Anglophone Sector of NB Education I plan to count on my son David Kershaw, a Masters student in computer science at Dalhousie University to assist me and co-write some of the articles. I will also be counting on my very capable team and colleagues in NB Education who will ultimately be the ones to make NB3-21C a reality. 

So the initial Big Question we wish to pose to any readers who have got this far and wish to join our journey is: Are you aware of any other jurisdictions on a similar path and any key people my team should contact?  

And let the journey begin.

John Kershaw is deputy minister of the New Brunswick Ministry of Education – Anglophone Sector. His office is deeply involved in several projects focusing on how to use technology to enhance education and help today’s students prepare for tomorrow’s tech-driven economy.

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  • Meg, thank you very much for your insights and information. I have asked officials here at the department to investigate the sites you referenced and I will do the same. Thanks you again for taking the time to share!!

    John