Concerns raised after Alberta Education announces new pilot draft curriculum

Alberta schools boards can choose to pilot three more subjects in the new K-6 draft curriculum this fall, which is drawing criticism from some parents and student advocates.

The first subjects will be science for kindergarten through Grade 6 students, French first language and literature, and the language arts and literature subject in French immersion programs.

The pilot program is optional.

Education Minister Adriana Lagrange unveiled the subjects and scope of pilot program on Tuesday.

"We have had the most extensive engagement process that I would say Alberta or any other province has ever seen on seen on curriculum development, where anyone and everyone has had the opportunity to share their feedback," she said.

Feedback is also being collected from the public through to spring 2023

FEEDBACK CONCERNS

However some Alberta parents are concerned Alberta Education officials haven't heard from a diverse perspective to incorporate into the draft curriculum.

"The main thing for me, is it doesn't incorporate the call the Truth and Reconciliation, calls to action 62 through 65, which are related to education," said Kim Thorsen, a Edmonton parent of a young student.

"That seems like such an obvious no-brainer. Those are already prepared for you, just incorporate those in the curriculum, (but) they were ignored."

Other parents say they are not keen for any further changes to the children's course load as the pandemic has already caused learning delays, with frequent shifts to online learning since March 2020.

“My fears with this new curriculum is that everything that they're going to try to push through all those kids that have been losing things in the past two years are going to get even further behind," said Cathy Reitz, whose son is in Grade 3 at a Calgary public elementary school.

Advocacy group Support Our Students (SOS) says it wants more transparency from the province regarding the draft curriculum revision process.

"We're really hoping to hear the government was going to release the results of the consultations," said executive director Medeana Moussa.

"(The province) got overwhelming engagement because parents, teachers, school boards, are very concerned about how this curriculum was developed in the first place."

FRENCH BOARD APPROVAL

Four Francophone school boards initially refused to implement early draft versions of some subjects and officials said Tuesday they accept changes regarding the French language subjects included in the next phase of the pilot.

"All four Francophone boards, teachers and educational advisors provide feedback that was that was reflected in this new draft," said Tanya Saumure, president Fédération des conseils scolaires francophones de l’Alberta.

"We will continue to work with Alberta education to provide feedback and to ensure that the new first French and new French first language and literature program meets the needs of francophone students across Alberta."

The president of the Federation des Parents Francophone de l'Alberta also expressed support.

"My expectation is that they will have rectified what was missing and made certain that the new draft meets the needs of the francophone students in our province," said Nadine Morton.

Morton adds that parents in the francophone community are still awaiting draft changes for social studies and music.

OTHERS OPPOSED

Leaders with the NDP opposition say if elected to government, they would go back to the drawing board.

“We would welcome teachers back to the table and we would make sure that we create a long term curriculum that can be successful for future generations," said Education Critic Sarah Hoffman.

Alberta's teachers' union says time is tight, and its members are challenged with ongoing pandemic concerns, including shortages due to sick leave, and the lifting of all public health restrictions in March.

“We're talking about the fall in September, that's only a couple of months away. We're in mid-May," said Jason Schilling, president of the Alberta Teachers' Association.

"There's a point in time where the government sort of needs to recognize we're too late to implement this in the fall, we are asking too much of our education system to do this next year. We need to scale this back."

Schilling says 97 per cent of teacher's have previously stated they lack confidence in the draft curriculum.

PILOT DETAILS

School boards have until June 6 to express interest of participating in the pilot.

Of the $59 million allocated for the curriculum overhaul program, the province will spend $6.5 million to support piloting program and feedback sessions.

Feedback has been collected over a 12-month period starting in March 2021 through online surveys and engagement sessions.

Alberta Education is expected to release the final draft of the curriculum in spring 2023 to be implemented that September.

The new curriculum will be implemented province-wide for the 2023-2024 school year.