New draft Alberta K-12 curriculum criticized for not being much of an improvement from 2021 version

Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides visited Belgravia School in Edmonton to announce the Alberta government's new draft K-6 social studies curriculum. From now until April 2, Albertans can provide their feedback at:

By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter 

(ANNews) – Alberta Education has released its long-awaited draft social studies curriculum after the previous draft in 2021 was widely condemned by experts and educators for being Eurocentric, lacking attention to Indigenous issues and based on outdated pedagogical methods. 

The latest draft, however, is not much of an improvement, according to critics of the 2021 document. 

The UCP government consulted seven education experts on the new draft, alongside 300 teachers and Indigenous community leaders and surveys that were filled out by more than 12,800 members of the public. 

University of Alberta education instructor Jean-Claude Couture, one of the experts consulted, said the government ignored experts’ input on the curriculum’s structure. 

“We would return to the next meeting and be told, ‘Well, you had a very good idea. Unfortunately, it’s been decided we can’t do that,'” he told the CBC.

Couture added that the new social studies curriculum still consists largely of facts for children to memorize, rather than promoting critical thinking skills. 

Carla Peck, an expert in curriculum at the University of Alberta who wasn’t involved in reviewing the new draft, called it “profoundly regrettable” that little has changed since 2021.

“I would characterize this curriculum document once again, as we saw in 2021, as very white, very Eurocentric,” Peck told Global News

The new draft, which details the proposed K-6 curriculum in detail and includes a rough outline for grades 7-12, has students learning about First Nations and Francophone communities and economics in Grade 1, and Indigenous leaders in Grade 2. They would study colonialism in Grade 4, but only about its benefits to European colonizers. Students wouldn’t learn about residential schools until Grade 9. 

Call to Action 62 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report in 2015 urges governments to make “age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade Twelve students.”

Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides announced that schools will be able to pilot the new curriculum in September, with the goal of having it in all classrooms in time for the 2025/26 school year. Because the existing social studies curriculum is from 2006, he said there’s little time to waste. 

“If we keep pushing some of the piloting or other pieces back, it just keeps pushing those dates back,” Nicolaides said at a March 14 press conference at Edmonton’s public Belgravia School.

“And I want to be sensitive to that, but I’m also sensitive to the fact that our social studies curriculum is 20 years old.”

While Edmonton Public School Board chair Julie Kusiek and Edmonton separate schools chair Sandra Palazzo were both in attendance at Nicolaides’ announcement, both said they weren’t given sufficient time to review the documents in full. 

Alberta Teachers Association president Jason Schilling has expressed concern that the process of reviewing the curriculum is rushed. 

“I’m worried about the timelines and how that’ll affect my colleagues working in schools right now,” Schilling told CTV News. “They need to take any of that feedback, see how they’re gonna apply it to this draft to make any changes, and then release that.”

Albertans have less than two weeks remaining to provide feedback on the draft. An online feedback form closes on April 2.

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