Edmonton

Teachers, students join protest against Alberta curriculum delays

Approximately 200 people, including dozens of teachers and students, gathered Wednesday to protest a decision by the United Conservative Party to withhold implementing a new draft curriculum while it conducts its own review. 

New curriculum review panel struck by UCP criticized for its makeup

About 200 people protested at the Alberta legislature on Wednesday. They are upset that a proposed new curriculum won't be implemented while the United Conservative Party government conducts its own review. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Approximately 200 people, including dozens of teachers and students, gathered Wednesday to protest a decision by the United Conservative Party to withhold implementing a new draft curriculum while it conducts its own review. 

The noon-hour demonstration at the Alberta legislature was sparked by last week's announcement from Education Minister Adriana LaGrange that an independent panel of experts has been appointed to help develop a new kindergarten to Grade 12 curriculum.

Critics say the panel lacks representation from teachers, Indigenous groups and the LGBTQ community. 

"Teachers have an important role in helping out with the curriculum and we've just been shut out of it," Michelle Savoie, who teaches science for grades six to nine, said Wednesday.

"We don't know what the panel's going to end up with, it's a wait-and-see but at the same time, it's unnerving that they just say teachers aren't involved anymore. I hope they do more consultations with us in the future, if possible."

Last October, former education minister David Eggen released the draft curriculum which included teaching students about financial literacy and age-appropriate concepts of consent. The curriculum included lessons on safety, personal space and respect for the belongings of others. 

Field testing the new kindergarten to Grade 4 curriculum was set to begin in September. However, in June, LaGrange put a hold on its implementation, stating she wants to conduct more consultations with parents, teachers, school boards and education experts.

LaGrange's office said in an emailed statement on Wednesday, they owe it to students to ensure curriculum development is done right.

"The panel will operate independently and is made up of individuals with diverse backgrounds who share a passion for improving our education system," wrote LaGrange's press secretary Colin Aitchison​​​​.

"Development and drafting of the curriculum will still be carried out by the existing curriculum working groups. This diverse group of 350 teachers from across Alberta will continue to provide a variety of perspectives during the development process."

A broad review of Alberta's curriculum for kindergarten through Grade 12 was undertaken by the previous provincial government in 2016. Janis Irwin, the NDP's education critic, said on Wednesday that it was enough to kick-start the new curriculum in the fall.

"I saw the process first-hand," Irwin said. "I saw how many dedicated teachers came out to work on a new, modern, evidence-based curriculum. Our government was set to field-test this curriculum.  

The additional panel adds more layers and more delays, Irwin said. "It's absolutely unnecessary. It could've been fully avoided."

LaGrange told CBC last week she hopes new changes would roll out in 2020.

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