Edmonton

Alberta's draft K-6 curriculum to be delayed in 4 subjects, LaGrange announces

The Alberta government is delaying the introduction of a new draft elementary school curriculum in four subjects, and pushing back the introduction of a new curriculum for junior and senior high.

Changes will also push back introduction of new junior, senior high curriculum

Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange will speak to reporters Monday about the latest steps for the province's proposed K-6 curriculum. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

The Alberta government is delaying the introduction of a new draft elementary school curriculum in four subjects, and pushing back the introduction of a new curriculum for junior and senior high.

Curriculum critics say the move is a good start, but they're hoping for even more substantial change.

The education minister said Monday all K-6 students must begin learning from the new English language arts, math and physical education and wellness curriculum in September 2022.

However, the new K-6 curriculum for social studies, French immersion and francophone language arts, science and fine arts will be delayed.

"We really want implementation to be successful, and what we're hearing is that for it to be successful, we have to slow the pace down," LaGrange said at a news conference.

The province said the level of concern about the social studies draft has prompted it to discard its working copy, and draw up a new blueprint rearranging the order the information should be taught in.

The blueprint proposes to add lessons about more ancient civilizations, and move that material to Grade 5 from Grade 2.

Background material provided by the government said people had concerns about the age and developmental appropriateness of the content in social studies.

People giving feedback also said there was too much material for children to learn, and pointed to concerns about a lack of diverse perspectives and biased language.

These echo the concerns numerous critics have vocalized about all subjects of the draft elementary curriculum.

The government's hand-picked adviser influencing the social studies curriculum has been under scrutiny for social media posts and writings critics say are racist and Eurocentric.

The government says more changes could be coming to address the concerns of Indigenous and Francophone Albertans. 

LaGrange said the government's philosophy about developing a knowledge-based curriculum will remain the same.

"And we make no apologies for that," she said.

The government says it will appoint another advisory group, to begin work in the new year, to propose how the new K-6 curriculum should be introduced into classrooms. That group is supposed to give recommendations to the minister by spring.

The education ministry will continue working on social studies, science, French and fine arts, and release new drafts for public consultation by spring.

It also plans to release a final version of the math, English and wellness curriculum by spring 2022.

The timeline changes will also push back the development and launch of new curriculum in junior high and high school grades.

The Grade 7-12 material won't make an appearance in classrooms until all subjects of the K-6 curriculum are ready to go. Grade 7-10 lessons were supposed to be piloted next school year and become mandatory by September 2023.

Around 7,800 students in 17 schools and school divisions are piloting the K-6 curriculum. The government has refused to say which schools are testing which subjects in which grades. There are 56 of 61 school boards that refused to pilot the material.

Changes just a start, say advocates

LaGrange unveiled the proposed new K-6 curriculum in March, saying that voters had told government they wanted to dispense with educational fads and return to traditional methods of teaching, including an emphasis on acquiring knowledge, numeracy and literacy, and practical skills.

But when it was made public, the proposed curriculum was widely panned by parents and educators, who levelled accusations of plagiarism, inaccuracies, and flaws in how it covers race, colonialism and Indigenous people. Curriculum experts say the government's approach is unsupported by current research.

Taylor Schroeter, a parent of two elementary school children, and administrator of the Albertans Reject Curriculum Draft Facebook group, said scrapping the entire draft was her preferred outcome.

"I, at this point, don't think any amount of finishing touches is going to make this a workable document for students and for teachers," Schroeter said Monday. "And especially [with] the time constraints that they have us on. It's putting lipstick on a pig at this point."

Monday's announcement was the first sign the government is listening to pushback from the public, she said.

Alberta Teachers' Association president Jason Schilling credited teacher advocacy for the partial victory.

He said there are still substantial concerns with the three subjects that will begin this fall. He said the English language arts curriculum relies on outdated and non-diverse texts, doesn't include enough writing and lacks digital literacy.

The draft math curriculum includes some complex concepts too early, and takes too singular approach to solving problems, he said.

Dietitians, psychologists and teachers have concerns about how the wellness curriculum addresses body image.

Schilling said there is still too much content to teach in not enough time.

Public feedback has prompted some changes to language arts, wellness, science and fine arts, LaGrange said. Dinosaurs will be making a comeback, for example.

The curriculum rewrite had started under the province's Progressive Conservative government and was continued under the New Democratic Party government elected in 2015. Some of the curriculum Alberta teachers rely on is more than 30 years old.

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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