Alberta’s curriculum debate a contentious affair

Alberta’s curriculum debate a contentious affair

As parents and students head into the new school year, school districts wait with bated breath for the province to finish its curriculum review.

The $64-million review was announced in 2016 and, if approved, new lesson plans could be implemented by 2020.

Education Minister David Eggen said the review will deal with topics including Indigenous history and culture, computer coding, climate change, mental health, and sexual and gender diversity, while still putting an emphasis on math, reading and writing.

The ministry also said the current curriculum ranges in age from eight to approximately 30 years old, depending on the subject area.

“This is the first time for this kind of overall curriculum revamp. This is exciting for us to see how it all works together,” said Gary Strother, chief superintendent of the Calgary Catholic School District.

“To be able to develop them all at once, we can see how easy it would be to mix things from social studies into science or whatever subject areas. I’m excited about the possibilities of that happening — we are teaching things that are relevant to kids.”

However, the review has been met with opposition from United Conservative Party leadership hopefuls Brian Jean and Jason Kenney.

Jean previously announced he would scrap the review and take a “back-to-basics” approach to education, improving on financial, historical and energy literacy. He intends to scrap the review, calling it a waste of time and resources.

Kenney has accused the NDP of “social engineering,” and charged the new curriculum would ignore Canada’s military history.

While the province continues the review, teachers are offered tools and services to help them in areas including STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), Indigenous history and gender diversity.

Earlier this year, Eggen announced a new math bursary program for teachers, with the purpose of strengthening their knowledge, skill and confidence in teaching math.

The Joint Commitment of Action, signed in 2016 by Alberta Education and other provincial education groups along with the National Centre of Truth and Reconciliation, will ensure teachers and staff are provided with “targeted, progressive learning opportunities in First Nations, Metis and Inuit history and cultures within the next three years.”

In the meantime, Strother said the Catholic School District is focusing on STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art and math — incorporating each as much as they can into their classrooms.

“We look at those cross-curricular opportunities and integrating art in this kind of process as really, really powerful,” said Strother.

“We do that as much as possible, the cross-curricular work, because we know nothing sits in isolation, it doesn’t matter what subject area you’re doing.”


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