Alberta unveils new science, French curricula to be rolled out fall

Alberta unveils new science, French curricula to be rolled out fall

“Alberta students deserve to be learning from the best curriculum possible, and moving forward with curriculum renewal is essential to help them prepare for a rapidly changing labor market”

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Alberta’s UCP government released three finalized curriculum subjects Friday set to be taught in K-3 classrooms across the province beginning this fall.

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New science, French first language and literature, and French immersion language arts and literature curriculums will roll out this September in the early grades, but school boards will have the option of teaching them in grades 4 to 6.

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At a news conference Friday, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said the government has been listening to feedback from Albertans and teachers who have piloted the material in classrooms.

“Alberta students deserve to be learning from the best curriculum possible, and moving forward with curriculum renewal is essential to help them prepare for a rapidly changing labor market,” said LaGrange.

Beginning last September, 47 school boards, including 941 teachers and 22,000 students, piloted the draft material. That represents about 5.5 per cent of K-6 students based on the latest available government enrollment numbers, and about two per cent of the province’s teachers.

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The UCP’s K-6 curriculum rewrite has stirred up controversy since the draft release in March 2021, with critics saying it was age-inappropriate, lacked proper First Nations, Métis and Inuit perspectives and ways of knowing, was unrealistically content-heavy and too focused on the memorization of facts.

Alberta Education officials said the latest iteration of all three subjects has up to 20 per cent less content than previous drafts. Some content was shifted to older grades, including qualitative and quantitative data covering materials.

While the science draft was updated last year to include content about how dinosaurs were discovered and energy production, the latest version boosts content to promote understanding of agricultural practices in Alberta. It includes problem-solving techniques that include coding and algorithms, and First Nations, Métis, and Inuit knowledge, practices, and perspectives.

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Students in Grade 2 will be introduced to the concept of “debugging,” or removing errors, in instructions. By Grade 5, they will be asked to design an algorithm and translate it into computer code.

Alberta Education originally planned to implement the entirety of the new K-6 curriculum in 2022, but those plans have continued to evolve.

The department is still developing new drafts for social studies and fine arts, and while LaGrange said it had finished its engagement process, she didn’t offer a specific timeline for release. The French as a second language curriculum will be part of a later phase of curriculum development.

Last September, K-6 students began learning from a new physics-ed curriculum, and K-3 students began learning from new English language arts and literature and math curriculums. Grades 4 to 6 English and math will be mandatory this fall.

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“I have not heard directly from school authorities that there are any significant issues,” said LaGrange, adding that in response to concerns, the government released three subjects Friday to give teachers more time to prepare.

It’s putting $47 million towards helping equip teachers to teach the new subjects in the coming school year, and is working with the province’s four largest school boards to develop science resources.

‘Lousy’ implementation: teachers’ association calls for pause

On Friday, Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) president Jason Schilling called on the government to delay implementation because teachers and schools are already struggling with newly-introduced subjects, large class sizes, and a “significant” lack of supports.

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“You cannot continue to rush this just because there’s an election coming,” said Schilling, referring to the provincial vote expected May 29.

A recent ATA survey of teachers who have been working with the new curriculum subjects for six months showed a majority were not satisfied with the material.

Schilling said teachers have told him there are too many learning outcomes to get done in the course of the day, missing prerequisite knowledge particularly in math, and that some have been forced to buy their own resource materials.

“Everything, everywhere all at once might be an Oscar-winning concept for a film, but it’s a lousy way to implement a curriculum.”

Schilling said the pilots should have covered the entire school year and included more classrooms, and bring teachers back to the table so their feedback was integrated.

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With some Alberta teachers facing the prospect of having to work with six new subjects, he said he couldn’t recall them ever being asked to do so much at once.

LaGrange said she’d like to see ongoing renewals to the curriculum in the future rather than having to do a major overhaul of a decades-old curriculum.

Opposition NDP critic Sarah Hoffman said in a statement the UCP’s curriculum implementation has been “a gong show” from the start, and while some parts might be salvageable, it shouldn’t move ahead.

“We can’t trust this government with our children’s education. Why are they hiding the social studies curriculum? I believe they are afraid to tell Albertans what they’ve done with it until after the election,” she said.

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