Social Studies

Goals and Rationale


The main purpose of the Social Studies curriculum is to develop graduates who have the knowledge, skills, and competencies to be active, informed citizens.

An informed citizen understands key historical, geographical, political, economic, and societal concepts, and how these different factors relate to and interact with each other. Students cannot gain this understanding passively through a broad survey of topics and or by receiving knowledge from authoritative sources. Students must build deep understandings and create their own knowledge through investigations into interesting, open-ended questions, debating and discussing historical and contemporary issues, and developing and supporting their own hypotheses, solutions, and conclusions.

Social Studies offers students the opportunities to build those understandings and knowledge. It draws on topics from disciplines within the humanities and social sciences, primarily history, geography, political science, and economics, with contributions from other disciplines such as sociology, psychology, and anthropology. Uniting these disciplines is their focus on human activities, behaviours, and interactions with both other humans and the environment.

While Social Studies draws on topics from many different disciplines, the curriculum places greater emphasis on developing disciplinary thinking skills through six major thinking concepts: significance, evidence, continuity and change, cause and consequence, perspective, and ethical judgment. These thinking concepts were originally developed to outline historical thinking, but have been adapted to include some of the ways that geographers, economists, and political scientists think about topics.

Students can apply these concepts in today’s world of easy access to information about virtually any topic from sources around the globe. This access to information of uncertain quality and accuracy makes it more important than ever to teach students the skills needed to gather, assess, analyze, and synthesize information and ideas from multiple sources. Once students have gathered and analyzed information, they will use it to solve problems, make decisions, and communicate their ideas effectively.

Student can apply the skills they learn in Social Studies to a wide range of post-secondary programs or in future careers. The disciplines within Social Studies develop students’ abilities to think analytically and solve problems. Students will have opportunities to conduct quantitative and qualitative research and learn how to collect and interpret data. They will learn to communicate their findings through a variety of methods such as written reports, oral presentations, graphics, and statistics. Studying human interactions and the relationship between humans and the environment can lead to a variety of different careers, such as ones in research, marketing, law, and public service.

Through the Social Studies curriculum, students will have opportunities to explore and better understand their own identity, perspectives, and values as well as develop the competencies that encourage active, informed citizenship. They will develop the ability to think critically, consider different perspectives and ideas with an open mind, and disagree respectfully with those who have different opinions or points of view. They will be empowered to stay informed about public policy and take action on issues important to them. 

The knowledge, skills, and competencies developed throughout the Social Studies curriculum will prepare students to participate in society as responsible citizens.


The BC Social Studies curriculum contributes to students’ development as educated citizens through the achievement of the following goals.

Students are expected to 

  • develop the competencies needed for participation in a democratic society: considering multiple perspectives, respecting different values and points of view, gathering and critically analyzing information, making informed decisions, and effectively communicating their views
  • develop an understanding of the connections between the past, present, and future and the people, events, and trends that have shaped the development and evolution of societies, especially our own. A complete understanding of Canada’s past and present includes developing an understanding of the history and culture of Canada’s Indigenous peoples.
  • develop an understanding of the interaction between humans and the environment, the impact of the physical environment on the development of human societies and cultures, and the impact of humans on the environment — understanding these interactions involves developing spatial awareness about geophysical features and human impacts
  • develop an understanding of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and the democratic system of government, including how decisions are made at the individual, group, local, provincial, and national levels, and how to get involved in the political process and express their opinions effectively
  • develop an understanding of how economic systems work and their place in an interconnected global economy so they are aware of the interactions between political, environmental, and economic decisions, and the trade-offs involved in balancing different interests.