Nfld. & Labrador

History class in the books as hybrid social studies course set to take its place

Canadian history and geography courses are being pulled from high school curricula and replaced with a multi-discipline class.

Dept. of Education amalgamating courses and overhauling social studies curricula

High school students will have a new set of social studies courses to choose from next year, rather than the usual single-subject history and geography courses. (Keewatin Patricia District School Board/submitted)

Social studies super-courses are in development and will act as a replacement for current high school history and geography classes — a decision drawing fire from the Tories but defended by the Ball government as reflective of current educational needs.

Newfoundland and Labrador's standard high-school curriculum is being redesigned in order to lump together history, economics, civics, and geography into a single subject, Education Minister Al Hawkins said Thursday.

We make it applicable to today.- Education Minister Al Hawkins

His department's decision was questioned by the Opposition in the House of Assembly as Tories raised criticism over the change, saying students won't have a choice between the two subjects and instead will be left with a "generic" social studies option.

"Why has this decision been made to abandon educating children on our history?" PC MHA David Brazil asked.

"We are not abandoning our history," Hawkins fired back. "It's certainly not something we are taking away."

Hawkins described the ministry's work as "continual," always reviewing courses to ensure they're relevant and up to date.

"We make it applicable to today, not back into 1990," he said. "We continually make changes to the curricula so that we can implement the best possible opportunity for students."

Education Minister Al Hawkins defended government's decision to make significant curriculum changes next year. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Hawkins said teachers, school boards and other staff are consulted before curriculum changes such as this one.

"We don't have to have consultation with parents on this. We have a professional staff that provides that expertise," he said.

As an added benefit, Hawkins said, the new courses will be easier to administer in rural areas. The numbers "weren't really there" to support separate courses in smaller and mid-size schools, he said.

Revamping how the subjects are taught also gives the department a chance to address interest levels in the material, he added, allowing the curricula more flexibility.

Rather than sticking to a sometimes dry textbook, amalgamating the social studies courses would allow teachers to use resources "outside of that template," such as discussing current affairs.

Hawkins added that multiple course options are on the table, so that students will retain the ability to choose which topics appeal to them, with variations between the courses.

"This is advice that we're getting from professionals, from teachers in the classrooms," he said. 

Courses are set to roll out next year.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Katie Breen

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