Draft K-6 curriculum fails students, new poll of Albertans suggests

The Alberta Teachers' Association commissions monthly public polls on education issues in the province. The latest, conducted between April 19 and May 1, found more people have a negative opinion of the draft curriculum than like it.

53% don't believe it provides knowledge, skills students need to succeed

Alberta Teachers' Association President Jason Schilling said polling commissioned by the association suggests the public does not support the government's draft K-6 school curriculum as presented. (Sam Martin/CBC)

A new Environics poll suggests Albertans' support for the government's approach to K-12 education hit its lowest point in 10 years after a controversial new elementary school curriculum was made public.

The Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA) commissions monthly public polls on education issues in the province. The latest telephone poll of 900 people, conducted between April 19 and May 1, found more people have a negative opinion of the draft curriculum than like it.

The draft K-6 curriculum in all subjects, in English and French, was released on March 29 by Education Minister Adriana LaGrange.

The poll found 53 per cent of people responding said the draft elementary curriculum would not allow the government to meet its stated objectives of giving students the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.

About one-third of respondents said they weren't sure, while 17 per cent said the proposed curriculum would set the government up to meet its goals.

ATA president Jason Schilling said the result reinforces the association's call for the government to halt its plan to test the draft K-6 curriculum next year and bring teachers into the process to rework it.

"This curriculum is potentially damaging to students. We don't want to see that for our students. We want our students to be successful, to have strong futures."

Each month, pollsters ask respondents to identify what they believe is the most pressing issue in K-12 education.

Curriculum concerns rose to the top in December 2020, surpassing funding for schools and safety of classrooms during the pandemic.

In the April poll, 41 per cent of respondents identified curriculum as the most pressing issue, up by 10 percentage points from the month previous.

Another monthly question asks people to provide their approval rating of the provincial government's handling of K-12 education.

In April, six in 10 people said they disapprove, including 38 per cent of people who strongly disapprove of the government's approach. Six per cent said they strongly supported the current government's direction. 

The disapproval rating is the lowest recorded by the poll in the last decade, historical records show. 

The records also show that public support for the United Conservative Party government's handling of K-12 education has been dropping since being elected in April 2019.

Curriculum not final, gov't says

Schilling said the proposed program of studies lacks the support of many teachers, curriculum experts, Indigenous peoples, francophones and parents.

Critics have said the draft curriculum has content too complex and mature for young children to understand, is too focused on rote memorization rather than comprehension, excludes Indigenous and francophone perspectives, contains factual errors and has more content than teachers can practically teach during the time allotted.

Diana Powell, an administrator of a Facebook group of people opposed to the draft curriculum, said the poll results suggest there are numerous concerns.

"I don't understand how they cannot at least acknowledge the fact that they've missed the mark and they need to redo it," said Powell, whose daughter will begin kindergarten in Edmonton this fall.

In an email Monday, Nicole Sparrow, LaGrange's press secretary said the UCP heard during the 2019 election campaign that parents wanted a curriculum with an increased focus on foundational knowledge and skills.

The draft is a proposal, not a final copy, she said, and public feedback will be sought online and through upcoming forums.

The government will also continue to work with the education system, including the teachers' association, Sparrow said.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 per cent, 19 times out of 20.


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