Inclusive curriculum helps students stay in school, says Edmonton youth advocate

Inclusive curriculum helps students stay in school, says Edmonton youth advocate

As Alberta Education moves toward a school curriculum that better reflects the diversity of students across the province, an Edmonton youth advocate says he believes the changes will keep more kids in school.

Last Thursday, Alberta Education released survey results from parents, teachers and students, as it continues its 6-year overhaul of the curriculum that began last year.

Of the 32,391 respondents, 78 per cent "moderately agreed" that it was important for K-12 curriculum to reflect the diversity of Alberta's population.

"This is an important part of developing new curriculum in the province of Alberta ... to ensure that students can see themselves in the lessons that they're learning," said Minister David Eggen, adding he recognized lower attendance and graduation levels among some cultural groups.

He said the development of a curriculum that reflects the histories and cultures of Indigenous and black students would help.

Alberta Education is looking for presentations "from all groups that are interested in developing a fair and balanced curriculum that reflects who we are as Albertans," Eggen added.

Inspiration to 'aim high'

Edmonton advocate Ahmed Abdulkadir, who works with Indigenous and black youth to address justice and safety issues, applauded the move toward greater inclusion.

He said recognizing and learning about the achievements, contributions and histories of black Canadians benefits everyone while instilling a sense of belonging and motivation in black students.

"If you know that you are part of a history that has been contributing to this society and if you know that you can succeed and there are people like you who have succeeded before you, it will give you a positive ambition for you to finish high school, for you to aim high," said Abdulkadir. "We all want all Albertans to feel that they are included in the curriculum that they are learning."

Abdulkadir recently began working with Edmonton Public Schools to improve completion rates among some Indigenous and minority students. He also met with trustee Ray Martin last month to address concerns over how some literature that contains uses of the "N-word" is handled in the classroom.

Survey respondents said the curriculum should explore multiple cultural and religious perspectives including First Nations, Métis and Inuit, as well as the experiences of Francophones. They emphasized that those perspectives should be unbiased and authentic.

Eggen noted that the ministry has entered into an agreement with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba to ensure training about reconciliation and the history of residential schools is available to all educators.

He said additional opportunities for the public to share their views on the curriculum overhaul will be announced soon.

andrea.huncar@cbc.ca           @andreahuncar