British Columbia Curriculum


“A quality education system assists in the development of human potential and improves the well-being of each individual person in British Columbia society.” These words, along with the description of the educated citizen, became educational policy following the report of the Royal Commission on Education (known as the Sullivan Commission), in 1988. They continue to have meaning today.

To ensure the development of an educated society, government is responsible for providing all youth with the opportunity to obtain high-quality education. To that end, British Columbia’s schools assist in developing citizens who:

  • Are thoughtful and able to learn and to think critically, and can communicate
  • Information from a broad knowledge base
  • Are creative, flexible, and self-motivated and have a positive self-image
  • Are capable of making independent decisions
  • Are skilled and able to contribute to society generally, including the world of work
  • Are productive, gain satisfaction through achievement, and strive for physical well-being
  • Are co-operative, principled, and respectful of others regardless of differences
  • Are aware of the rights of the individual and are prepared to exercise the responsibilities of the individual within the family, the community, Canada, and the world

The Core Competencies

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.


Essential learning

The curriculum for each subject area includes the essential learning for students, which represent society’s aspirations for B.C’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.

Image: Graphical representation of the Curriculum Model - Description below

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.