'Laundry list of facts': Alberta teachers group revives school curriculum criticism

·3 min read

EDMONTON — The Alberta Teachers' Association is inviting the minister of education to meet and go over a new report that has rekindled fierce opposition to the government's proposed curriculum for kindergarten to Grade 6 students.

Association president Jason Schilling said it surveyed more than 6,500 teachers and school leaders about the "bungled" curriculum draft. He said there is a moral imperative for the United Conservative government to hear the concerns the report gathered.

"Premier Kenny and his colleagues like to say their policies are a result of listening to what Albertans told them, loud and clear," Schilling said during a news conference Wednesday.

"The government has been told loudly and clearly by people across the province that this curriculum is unacceptable. I want to sit down with the minister, go over the report ... put a moratorium on the curriculum as it is right now, go back to the table, and do a fresh start on this."

The report states teachers responded to open-ended questions about their thoughts on the curriculum, including whether the content of what students would learn in their math, science, English, and history classes is age appropriate.

It says 95 per cent of teachers and other school leaders surveyed said it isn't.

"The subject overviews contain none of the information teachers require and, instead, read like communication tools," the report states.

It says teachers found the proposed curriculum skews toward Eurocentric history, is full of jargon, doesn't teach students critical thinking skills, and lacks accurate Indigenous perspectives. For example, it refers to First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples only in the past tense. Teachers surveyed say it reads like a curriculum from the 1950s and lacks a clear vision and goal.

These are just some examples, Schilling added.

A spokesperson for Education Minister Adriana LaGrange did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The report includes similar concerns hundreds of Alberta teachers raised in March when the draft curriculum was first released.

Schilling said it was important to begin surveying teachers as soon as the curriculum was published because their voice was not included when it was first being drafted.

He said the government did an earlier review before the curriculum was published that heard from 130 teachers. He criticized the government for censoring the details of what the review found and added those reviewers were asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

"It is clear that the content included in this (curriculum) was not written by teachers and did not incorporate their views. Frankly, that is fundamentally why they've got so many things wrong," Schilling said.

Jaquie Skytt, the lead author of the report, said teachers were emotional and fearful about the future of students in the survey.

"This curriculum is lacking the foundational elements that teachers need to plan for instruction. There is no rationale, no philosophy, no principles of learning, no goals, no scope and sequence and the learning outcomes do not articulate what students must know and be able to do without these elements," she said.

"The curriculum reads like a laundry list of facts, with no rhyme or reason."

Schilling said throughout September, Albertans have not seen "communication and transparency from the government on where they are right now in terms of the field testing process" being conducted in some schools and grades in the province.

He said any outcomes of the field tests so far are unknown because of a lack of government transparency.

The Opposition NDP said the review gives the curriculum a failing grade.

"The review concludes that, 'racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry have not been addressed and, in fact, the curriculum language promotes racism, sexism and bigotry,'" education critic Sarah Hoffman said in a statement.

"Jason Kenney's draft curriculum for K through 6 is not just a disaster, it is dangerous."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press

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