New K-4 curriculum includes foundations of consent, financial literacy

Alberta has released draft school curriculum for kindergarten to Grade 4, updating materials that in some cases haven’t changed in 30 years.

Education Minister David Eggen holding telephone town halls next week

Education Minister David Eggen introduces new curriculum Wednesday for Alberta students in kindergarten to Grade 4. (CBC)

Alberta has released the draft school curriculum for kindergarten to Grade 4, which will include the foundations of financial literacy and age-appropriate concepts of consent. 

Children in these grades will be taught the importance of personal space, safety and to respect other people's space and belongings.

"We see through the beginnings of this #MeToo movement that we expect more respect and integrity of the individual," Education Minister David Eggen said. "And you have to teach that at an early age."

The draft curriculum updates teaching materials that haven't been updated in 30 years, but also focuses on the basics of reading, writing, communication and computational thinking. 

Children in those grades be taught how to use a keyboard, but will still learn printing and cursive writing.

Math education will include memorizing multiplication tables and will have a greater focus on spatial concepts. Fractions will be introduced in Grade 1 instead of Grade 3.

Financial literacy will be woven into math, wellness and social studies instruction. For example, children will be taught the difference between needs and wants and making healthy choices.

There are no references to LGBTQ issues at these grade levels, but children will learn respect for others and their relationships.

Jason Kenney, leader of the United Conservative Party Official Opposition, has vowed to shred the curriculum if he becomes premier. 

UCP caucus spokesperson Christine Myatt said the party will review the draft document before commenting. She said the party believes the curriculum development process lacked transparency.

"The curriculum rewrite has been shrouded in secrecy with the NDP minister of education refusing to tell Albertans which professors and special interest groups have been invited to the curriculum rewrite table," she said in an email. "The public has a right to know which external stakeholders are helping to write this curriculum."

Eggen said it's "deplorable" the UCP turned this into a political issue. 

"For them to suggest that they would shred all of this work that literally all these people in this room and thousands of others did in good faith, I find to be deeply suspicious and politically motivated," he said. 

Skills for a digital world

Cathy Adams, a professor in the faculty of education at the University of Alberta, was pleased that the fundamentals of computational thinking and coding has finally been added to the K-4 curriculum.

She said those lessons will help students prepare for their lives in an increasingly digital world and teach them critical thinking, problem solving and logical analysis. 

"This is not about raising a generation of coders," Adams said, "but about educating a new generation of creative, engaged and ethical citizens who are able to understand, participate and critically evaluate the new digital landscapes that we are increasingly working, playing and living in."

Greg Jeffery, president of the Alberta Teachers' Association, said it was very important to include instruction about consent, which he said must be learned when students are young. 

 "We're not talking about sexuality here, we're talking about personal space," he said. "And the ability to say no to something that makes a child uncomfortable, I think, is a very important concept."

Eggen will hold telephone town halls for parents on Oct. 16 and 17th.  The draft curriculum will be tested in some Alberta classrooms next year after Eggen signs off on it in December. 

 It's not expected to be introduced in all schools until the fall of 2020.