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Alberta delays curriculum plans; revised subjects will be gradually introduced

Alberta Education will delay the implementation of its widely condemned K-6 draft curriculum to address feedback from different education stakeholders.

Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced the changes during a press conference on Monday. She said they were committed to a transparent review process. The initial K-6 draft curriculum was first unveiled in March of this year.

“We have listened to the valuable insights provided by parents, education stakeholders, teachers and Albertans and are making significant content and implementation changes to reflect this,” Minister LaGrange said.

With COVID-19 in mind, the province said it would be changing timelines for implementation. The pandemic has added stress to families and educators, the province said.

Minister LaGrange said they’d focused on literacy, numeracy and learning loss in the spring. She said there has been a significant strain on the education system. They want the implementation to be successful, she said.

“What we’re hearing is we have to slow the pace down,” she said.

The revised subjects – English Language Arts and Literature, Mathematics and Physical Education and Wellness – will be started in September 2022. Alberta Education will be working with education and curriculum experts in early 2022 in advance of that date. Those experts will also provide input on the remaining K-6 subjects, including science and social studies.  

School boards say it’s a step forward

Marilyn Dennis, Calgary Board of Education (CBE) trustee and president of the Alberta School Boards Association, said they appreciated that the province has listened to their concerns.

Roughly 95 per cent of school boards refused to pilot the K-6 draft curriculum.

In Calgary, virtually all of the elected school board trustees campaigned against the implementation of the previous draft curriculum.

“ASBA has advocated for a delay and a phased approach to curriculum implementation and recognizes that government responded with some changes announced today,” Dennis said.

During the media conference, Dennis said they’d wanted a complete delay. While this isn’t a complete delay, she said it was a step in the right direction. They look forward to providing additional feedback.

Oh me, oh my, oh dinosaurs!

The province said they’ve made several changes to some subjects based on feedback. Changes have been made to language arts, phys-ed, fine arts (music) and science. They’ve expanded key topics such as positive body image, climate change and learning about dinosaurs.

Those changes are available for feedback on the province’s website.

Areas that haven’t yet been changed include those that drew substantial controversy during implementation. These pertained to First Nations, Metis, Inuit and Francophone perspectives outside of the Social Studies subject area.

The social studies section has been heavily criticized for having poor, jargon-filled descriptions and inaccurate depictions of Indigenous history. Alberta Teachers Association teacher surveys had suggested it represented a Eurocentric view of history.

Minister LaGrange said they would continue to engage on the social studies blueprint, and then create a draft for engagement. She couldn’t provide a specific timeline for that to be piloted.

The Minister was asked if teachers would be a part of the advisory panel to provide additional feedback on the changes.

“Absolutely, I believe that there will be teachers represented, but we have not fully developed the composition of that group,” she said.

The Alberta Teachers’ Association said this was the result of strong advocacy.

“There is an important victory embedded in today’s announcement for students, teachers, parents and public education. Tens of thousands of Albertans—particularly teachers and parents—got involved and pushed hard with relentless advocacy. Today I applaud them. This change would never have happened without that tireless effort. When you advocate for students, it works. However, our work must continue,” said ATA president Jason Schilling

“While this is a step in the right direction toward fixing this curriculum mess, there are still significant issues with the proposed content for the language arts, math, and phys ed and wellness programs.”

Virtual information sessions on the updated curriculum and implementation plans will start on Dec. 16.