Curriculum Redesign

Introduction to BC’s curriculum redesign

Today we live in a state of constant change. It is a technology-rich world, where communication is instant and information is immediately accessible. The way we interact with each other personally, socially, and at work has changed forever. Knowledge is growing at exponential rates in many domains, creating new information and possibilities. This is the world our students are entering.

British Columbia’s curriculum is being redesigned to respond to this demanding world our students are entering.  To develop new models, the Ministry consulted with experts in the field. They suggested that to prepare students for the future, the curriculum must be learner-centred and flexible and maintain a focus on literacy and numeracy, while supporting deeper learning through concept-based and competency-driven approaches.

The redesign of curriculum maintains a focus on sound foundations of literacy and numeracy while supporting the development of citizens who are competent thinkers and communicators, and who are personally and socially competent in all areas of their lives.  British Columbia’s redesigned curriculum honours the ways in which students think, learn, and grow, and prepares them for a successful lifetime of learning where ongoing change is constant.

Key features of redesigned curriculum

At the heart of British Columbia’s redesigned curriculum are the Core Competencies, essential learning and literacy and numeracy foundations. All three features contribute to deeper learning.

The Core Competencies

The Core Competencies are the intellectual, personal, and social skills that all students need to develop for success in life beyond school.  BC has identified three Core Competencies – Communication, Thinking and Personal and Social Competency as essential for all learners.

Core Competencies underpin the curricular competencies in all areas of learning.  They are directly related to the educated citizen and as such are what we value for all students in the system.

Information on the Core Competencies, including profiles and illustrations, are available at

Essential learning

The curriculum for each subject area includes the essential learning for students, which represent society’s aspirations for BC’s educated citizen.  The redesigned curriculum develops around key content, concepts, skills and big ideas that foster the higher-order thinking demanded in today's world.

Literacy and numeracy foundations

Literacy is the ability to understand, critically analyze, and create a variety of forms of communication, including oral, written, visual, digital, and multimedia, in order to accomplish one’s goals.

Numeracy is the ability to understand and apply mathematical concepts, processes, and skills to solve problems in a variety of contexts.

Literacy and numeracy are fundamental to all learning.  While they are commonly associated with language learning and mathematics, literacy and numeracy are applied in all areas of learning.

Curriculum model

All areas of learning are based on a “Know-Do-Understand” model to support a concept-based competency-driven approach to learning.

Three elements, the Content (Know), Curricular Competencies (Do), and Big Ideas (Understand) all work together to support deeper learning.

British Columbia’s curriculum design enables a personalized, flexible and innovative approach at all levels of the education system.

All areas of learning have been redesigned using this model.

Content (Know)

The Content learning standards — the “Know” of the Know-Do-Understand model of learning — detail the essential topics and knowledge at each grade level.

Curricular Competencies (Do)

The Curricular Competencies are the skills, strategies, and processes that students develop over time. They reflect the “Do” in the Know-Do-Understand model of learning. While Curricular Competencies are more subject-specific, they are connected to the Core Competencies.

Big Ideas (Understand)

The Big Ideas consist of generalizations and principles and the key concepts important in an area of learning.  They reflect the “Understand” component of the Know-Do-Understand model of learning.

The big ideas represent what students will understand at the completion of the curriculum for their grade. They are intended to endure beyond a single grade and contribute to future understanding.

Any of the elements may include elaborations.  Elaborations are provided where necessary to clarify some words or statements and may include examples, key questions, definitions or be used to describe breadth and depth for content.  Elaborations are presented as “mouse-over” links on the website.

Concept-based, competency-driven curriculum

British Columbia’s redesigned curriculum brings together two features that most educators agree are essential for 21st-century learning: a concept-based approach to learning and a focus on the development of competencies, to foster deeper, more transferable learning. These approaches complement each other because of their common focus on active engagement of students. Deeper learning is better achieved through “doing” than through passive listening or reading. Similarly, both concept-based learning and the development of competencies engage students in authentic tasks that connect learning to the real world.

Flexible learning environments

Learning can take place anywhere, not just in classrooms. Many schools and teachers create learning environments that explore the use of time and space in creative ways. The integration of areas of learning and technology also have opened the door for teachers and schools to approach the use of time and space in creative ways – ways that adapt to the students’ needs and interests. 

Although the learning standards are described within areas of learning, there is no requirement for teachers to organize classrooms, schools or instruction in this manner. In effect, the Ministry of Education defines the “what” to teach but not the “how” to organize the time, space or methods to teach it.

The focus on personalization and the flexible structure of the curriculum support the configuration of combined grade classrooms.  Classes of students of more than one grade provide opportunities for teachers to develop a mindset that sees all the students as a group of learners with a range of needs and interests. Multi-grade programs should find a comfortable fit with the curriculum.

The curriculum for each area of learning is displayed in two ways—in HTML format on the website and in PDF or Word formats.

The curriculum website will continue to evolve in ways that support planning for learning.  At this point, several features are available such as:

  • A search engine to allow teachers to search for key words or select key elements from specific grades or areas of learning.  See:
  • The results of the search can be exported into a Word document for further manipulation
  • PDF or word versions of the curriculum can be printed
  • Some resources for planning are included now and will be further expanded in the future.

This flexibility supports teachers to combine the learning standards in various ways. Teachers are encouraged to create courses, modules, thematic units or learning experiences that go beyond learning area borders to focus on students’ needs and interests or local contexts. The curriculum design and the website features provide the flexibility to serve the unique needs of classrooms, students, and teachers.

Relevant supporting information