Edmonton

Alberta Education seeking volunteers to test new French, science curriculum

Alberta's education minister hopes elementary school teachers will volunteer to pilot test draft curriculum in three new subjects next year — French immersion and francophone language arts and science.

Francophone school boards pleased with new drafts of French language arts

Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says she doesn't have specific participation goals for classroom pilot testing of new draft K-6 Francophone, French immersion language arts and science curriculum. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Alberta's education minister hopes elementary school teachers will volunteer to pilot test draft curriculum in three new subjects next year — French immersion and francophone language arts and science.

But the Opposition says it could be a tall order for early elementary years teachers, who will also be required to teach new curriculum in English, math and physical education and wellness starting in September.

On Tuesday, Alberta Education published new curriculum drafts for kindergarten to Grade 6 science, as well as K-6 language arts programs for students in French immersion and francophone schools.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said she and the department had been listening to and incorporating feedback from educators and the public.

"Since Day 1, my goal as minister of education has been to put the best curriculum possible in front of our students," LaGrange said.

The new school curriculum has elicited an icy reception from many teachers, academics, school trustees, parents and the public.

In all subjects, critics have said the government's knowledge-based curriculum released so far contains age-inappropriate content, favours a Eurocentric worldview, emphasizes memorization over comprehension and isn't based on the best research about how children learn.

The government scrapped plans to mandate the new curriculum in all elementary subjects and grades next fall, and will instead require teachers to adopt the new K-3 math, K-3 English language arts and K-6 phys ed and wellness.

Last year, 56 of the 61 Alberta school boards that use the Alberta curriculum — including the province's four francophone school boards — refused to voluntarily pilot any of the draft curriculum.

Tanya Saumure is president of the Fédération des conseils scolaires francophone de l'Alberta, the organization of the province's francophone school boards. (Janet French/CBC News)

Tanya Saumure, president of the Fédération des conseils scolaires francophone de l'Alberta, says the newly released francophone language arts K-6 draft is a substantial improvement.

Saumure says Alberta Education worked with teachers and experts from the francophone school boards for the past year to better include francophone perspectives and culture.

"French first language should be developed by us — French-speaking Albertans," she said in an interview.

A background document provided to reporters says francophone language arts, French immersion language arts and science draft curriculum were all updated to move expectations into more appropriate grade levels, clarify wording and improve and grow First Nation, Inuit and Métis content.

Science has been updated to include dinosaurs, encourage more hands-on activities, and introduce the scientific method. Teachers will also be expected to teach about digital literacy and scientific ethics.

Although educational experts panned the government's previous approach to piloting curriculum this school year, LaGrange said the approach next year will be the same. She has set no targets for participation, sample size or demographic representation.

School divisions, schools and teachers can opt in to part or all of a pilot subject. Department officials said divisions, private and charter schools want as much flexibility as possible. They must signal by June 6 whether they intend to participate.

NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman says few elementary school teachers likely have the bandwidth to voluntarily test French language arts or science when they are already scrambling to teach new material in math, English and phys ed next year.

Hoffman said teachers already feel overwhelmed.

"We still don't see the kind of enthusiasm and buy-in that we want to see when we're seeing such a major shift," she said.

Hoffman said if elected, an NDP government would take the new curriculum back to teachers, academics and cultural groups until they get it right.

Alberta Teachers' Association president Jason Schilling said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that the government was rushing implementation of the new curriculum.

"Schools are being inundated with added expectations next year, and students will suffer as a result — something that teachers, school leaders and parents do not want to see," Schilling said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Janet French

Provincial affairs reporter

Janet French covers the Alberta Legislature for CBC Edmonton. She previously spent 15 years working at newspapers, including the Edmonton Journal and Saskatoon StarPhoenix. You can reach her at janet.french@cbc.ca.

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