Alberta begins six-year overhaul of education curriculum

Alberta is beginning work on a massive update of student curriculum that is expected to take six years and cost more than $64 million.

Arts, language arts, mathematics, social studies, sciences and wellness will all be reviewed

Changes are coming to Alberta school curriculum

7 years ago
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The province will be updating the curriculum in six key subjects, and also bulking up lessons on climate change, gender identity, financial management and coding, among others.

Alberta Education is updating what children are taught in the province's schools, but the process will take six years and $64 million to complete.

Starting in September, Alberta Education will begin developing new curriculum across all grade and all subject areas, Education Minister David Eggen announced Wednesday.

The current curriculum used by students is between eight and 30 years old. Some material predates the introduction of the internet, Eggen noted.. 

"The world is changing," he said. "We know that the 21st century career is involving using critical thinking skills to be able to process information, to access it and make evaluations on those higher levels." 

The review will be done simultaneously in six subject areas in both English and French: arts, language arts, mathematics, social studies, sciences, and wellness.

Eggen said material will be developed to teach students financial literacy, climate change, the history of indigenous people and residential schools, and gender identity. The department is looking at teaching computer coding to students. ​

Education Minister David Eggen greets students at John A. McDougall School in downtown Edmonton Wednesday before announcing his plan to reamp Alberta's school curriculum. (CBC)

Mark Ramsankar, president of the Alberta Teachers' Association, said the province needs to trim the curriculum and go more in depth in subject areas. 

"Our curriculum is about a mile wide and an inch deep," he said. "There's so much content, there's so much to it. We're way past due on this rewrite."

Provincially-funded Catholic school boards and religious schools may push back about having to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom. But Eggen said it's time for these issues to be taught in the health curriculum. 

"We can see from the unfortunate circumstances in other countries, in other areas, that now more than ever we need to teach about inclusion, and to teach about equality and social justice," he said.

Extensive consultation 

The curriculum will be developed in stages. Kindergarten to Grade 4 will be completed by the end of 2018, followed by Grades 5 to 8 in late 2019. The high school curriculum will be developed in phases from 2020 to 2022.

An online survey and meetings are planned to allow parents to provide feedback on the changes. The government is setting aside $4 million to consult about content with indigenous people. 

The existing curriculum will be used until the new one is put in place. 

The Wildrose Party was not impressed with the plan. Education critic Mark Smith said the minister appears to be ignoring the concerns of parents who dislike how children are taught math.

"For years now, parent groups have objected to discovery learning, and concerns have been raised over a new trend of declining test scores," Smith said in a news release.

"Minister Eggen's language makes it sound like despite all the work that has already been done, there will be no changes to address these concerns, and that upcoming changes may further alienate parents while elevating the role of bureaucrats in the classroom." 

Smith said the ministry already started a curriculum review in 2014 which cost $30 million. 

Eggen said earlier work on the curriculum will be used in the latest update. 

"This signals a decided move to actually get the job done," he said.