Northwest Territories considers dropping the Alberta school curriculum

·3 min read

The Northwest Territories (NWT) have announced that they are considering dropping the Alberta school curriculum – an education model they have been following for decades.

This news comes as Alberta prepares to instate their new curriculum for the 2021-2022 school year.

Christina Carrigan, NWT spokesperson for the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, said that their department conducts routine reviews of current school curriculums to ensure that they support and align with the territory’s “priorities and values for education.”

“Exploring what options are available is a normal part of reviewing and renewing curriculum, as such, we have conducted research to explore how other provinces and territories approach curriculum,” said Carrigan.

The Territory is currently looking into the BC curriculum because “the B.C. curriculum is modern and one where Indigenous world views seem to be embraced and encouraged,” Carrigan said.

Many speculate that the territory’s announcement is due to leaked documents detailing Alberta’s possible education overhaul last year – which were controversial to say the least.

The documents show that curriculum advisers – that had been hand-picked by the Alberta government – recommended that the province remove any mention of residential schools because they believed it to be too sad for kids in K-4.

There were also calls from Indigenous peoples and advocates to fire one of the 8 men who formed the panel – Dr. Chris Champion – due to a racist article he had written in 2019 where he called Indigenous inclusion in education a “fad.”

Alberta’s education minster Adriana LaGrande emphasized that this is just a routine curriculum review for the territory. “Prior to that conversation, the Northwest Territories had not reached out to my office, myself or my department,” LaGrange said.

“I spoke with the minister about the progress we’ve made in the curriculum development process, and he was very pleased with our commitment to addressing key principles of reconciliation and First Nations in our draft curriculum.”

“The minister also assured me that the Northwest Territories are simply going through their normal curriculum review process as the previous five-year agreement that they have with Alberta is coming to an end in September.”

Alberta’s education minister has been placing a large emphasis on the province’s promise to include the dark history of residential schools, Indigenous history, Black history and anti-racist education.

“We are going to have very, very strong First Nations, Métis and Inuit content,” LaGrange told a legislative committee reviewing the education budget on Wednesday. “We will have probably the most comprehensive curriculum across Canada in terms of reconciliation.”

Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz also emphasized the same notion on behalf of LaGrange, “Alberta’s future curriculum will include a broad and inclusive account of history, including Black history and Indigenous history,” Schulz said. “It will absolutely also address topics, concepts and issues related to anti-racism, particularly in social studies.”

No decision from the NWT will be made until the territory discusses the issue with stakeholders and Indigenous governments as well as until the actual new curriculum is published.

Jacob Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Alberta Native News