Local voices differ on the draft curriculum

·3 min read

The Alberta Government has drafted a new elementary curriculum that they hope will be piloted by schools in the coming 2021/2022 school year. The Alberta website states that “parents and teachers have waited a long time for a curriculum that brings a renewed focus to literacy, numeracy, citizenship and practical skills.” The government believes “the revised and strengthened Kindergarten to Grade 6 curriculum gives students a strong base of essential knowledge for future learning”. Interviewing local voices in Southern Alberta, we get varied opinions on the subject.

Magrath High School student Alyssa is concerned about the curriculum draft. After discussing the draft with her mother, they joined a Facebook group of other concerned citizens who have been voicing their opposition, and she wrote a letter to provincial leaders about her rejection of the curriculum. Alyssa states “I believe the curriculum would produce unfair expectations for neuro-divergent students as it includes complex ideas that will be difficult for any Grade 2 student to learn.” She cites proposed social studies topics of the Roman Empire and the Silk Road as examples of content that she finds is not age appropriate. She also shares in an interview that the math curriculum includes a section about personal and household finances that require students to share family wages and spending choices that, in her view, violate privacy. “I thought that Canada was a pluralistic country that supports multiculturalism,” she share, “but the new curriculum demonstrates insensitivity towards slavery and residential schools, and teaches kids to marginalize cultures and religions that aren’t Christian.” She also is concerned for the mental health of teachers who could be overwhelmed by the implementation of a poor curriculum.

While Alyssa and her mother have found many like-minded parents and teachers on Facebook groups created in opposition to the draft, there are also local voices in support of the draft. Cayleen Blackmore, a parent at the Westwind Alternate School, is excited for the curriculum changes. With five children working towards the outcomes in the Alberta curriculum, Blackmore states, “there is a lot of potential and innovative thinking in the proposed curriculum, and I’m excited to see what the teachers do with it.” Closely aligning with her own approach to education, she sees many benefits to the proposed curriculum. “I love the financial literacy aspect,” she shares, “and the focus on different cultures and religions. I also love the approach to studying about the world; seeing where we’ve come from and finding our place as global citizens. The teachers we work with are fantastic, and I hope their needs and expertise can be addressed and utilized to make these curriculum changes work”.

Many school boards are choosing to refrain from piloting the draft curriculum, however Westwind has yet to make a decision on the matter. In a recent press release the school boards shared “we are in the process of gathering information and engaging with stakeholders to ensure we do what is best for students.” Administration, school leadership teams, and teachers are closely reviewing the draft curriculum before making a final decision by the May 7th deadline. The letter explains “we are in the final stages of developing a committee… of teacher experts from each grade level who will offer recommendations about how Westwind should proceed.” Westwind’s decision will be based on the feedback of this team.

The curriculum changes can be found on the Government of Alberta website, and feedback is welcomed through a survey which can be found on the same site.

Elizabeth Thompson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temple City Star