(Stock photo)

(Stock photo)

MLA Ron Orr says old curriculum was ‘stagnant’

Reaction to the new Alberta K-6 curriculum

Reaction has been swift and scathing after Education Minister Adriana LaGrange released the new draft K-6 curriculum and development timelines for the new grade 7-10 and grade 11-12 curriculum on March 29.

Several school boards have even stated they will not be piloting the UCP’s new K-6 curriculum this fall, including Edmonton Public Schools, Elk Island Public Schools and Wild Rose School Division so far.

Others are waiting to see if the curriculum will be revised before making a decision.

When the UCP were elected they halted the NDP’s curriculum review and launched their own Curriculum Advisory Panel in summer, 2019.

A new Ministerial Order on Student Learning was also developed.

The curriculum aims to re-focus on the basics of reading and writing and a return to “tried and true methods” for mathematics.

“Drawing from history, geography, economics, civics, and other studies, students will develop an appreciation of how Albertans have built one of the most generous, prosperous, and diverse societies in the world,” states the release.

The UCP says the curriculum also includes aspects of climate change, renewable and non-renewable energy, Alberta and Canada’s cultural, ethnic and religious diversity, including examples of racism and discrimination, and wellness education that includes consent and sexual health content.

“This revised K-6 curriculum is the result of more than a year of consultations with parents, teachers, and subject matter experts,” said Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr in a release.

“The goal is to improve student outcomes across all subjects, following several years of declining and stagnant student performance,” he said.

“We have a responsibility to set our children up for success and there’s no better way to do that than by using common-sense teaching methods that focus on student literacy, numeracy and practical skills like budgeting and digital literacy.

“We have great teachers in Lacombe-Ponoka, and by equipping them with a great curriculum it will assist them in preparing students to reach their highest potential.”

The Alberta Party released a statement that acknowledged some positive aspects of the new curriculum, but ultimately concluded the draft “over-corrects.”

“The UCP process that scrapped the previous curriculum and proposed a new one was flawed and secretive. As a result, any proposed new curriculum was going to be seen as controversial and questioned by Albertans,” said the release.

The Alberta Party says they welcome the focus on numeracy and history, but says the new curriculum relies on memorization of facts.

“As in all things, balance is important.”

The party also says the new curriculum doesn’t encourage critical thinking, and says much of the subject matter is not age appropriate and progression of subjects is “incoherent” in its progression.

“The failure to conduct the review transparently leads us to call on the release of research and justification for the decisions made regarding the curriculum.”

Months before the draft was released, there was concern about the direction it was taking.

Back in August, 2020, the Alberta Teacher’s Association (ATA) called for curriculum advisor Chris Champion and LaGrange to be dismissed.

“An advisor who has called the inclusion of First Nations perspectives in school lessons ‘a fad’ needs to be dismissed from his role in advising on Alberta’s social studies curriculum,” said ATA president Jason Schilling in a press release.

The ATA responded to the release of the draft K-12 curriculum on March 29, stating it planned on undergoing an in-depth evaluation of the proposed curriculum by education experts: teachers.

The minister plans to pilot the new curriculum in the 2021/22 school year, to which Schilling says himself, as well as nine out of 10 teachers has “serious concerns” about.

“What was released today is barely a plan, and certainly not a plan for success,” said Schilling.

The ATA says their review will include an online questionnaire open to all teachers and principals in the Alberta public school system and round-table discussions.

Updates will be provided and a final report will be given to the government and the public upon completion of the review.

The Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) is also not impressed with the draft, calling for a rewrite of the K-6 curriculum.

MNA stated it has “monumental concerns about the Euro-American colonial undertones,” in the draft.

“For there to be true inclusivity in the curriculum, representation from many voices must exist at every level of the curriculum-making process and that includes Métis voices,” said Audrey Poitras, president of MNA in a release.

“Our citizens were shocked, and we are disheartened, to see our input and collaboration reduced to nothing more than a side-note in the draft that was presented to the public. The tone of the curriculum carries a Eurocentric-American point of view that effectively eliminates the voice and history of the Métis Peoples in Alberta,” said Poitras.

“This is another example of Alberta’s continued colonial practice over Métis peoples. The secretive approach under which this process was taken undermines the collective approach valued by our communities and it is unacceptable.”

The NDP are supporting the MNA’s call for a rewrite.

“I fully support the Métis Nation of Alberta in their call for this unacceptable curriculum to be withdrawn and rewritten,” said Sarah Hoffman, NDP critic for education, in a release.

“Albertans have found bizarre factual errors throughout this curriculum, and choices in priorities that promote European history, art, and religious traditions at the expense of the many other cultures that are fundamental to the lives of Alberta students.

“The delay and removal of Indigenous content is one of the most egregious examples of this,” said Hoffman.

“It comes as no surprise that several Alberta school boards … do not want to participate in piloting Jason Kenney and Adriana LaGrange’s disaster of a curriculum.”

The draft K-6 curriculum is online at alberta.ca/curriculum.