The Alberta government is delaying the introduction of a new draft elementary school curriculum in four subjects, and pushing back the introduction of a new curriculum for junior and senior high.
In a news release Monday, the province said all K-6 students must begin learning from the new English language arts, math and physical education and wellness curriculum in September 2022.
However, the new K-6 curriculum for social studies, French immersion and francophone language arts, science and fine arts will be delayed.
“We have listened to the valuable insights provided by parents, education stakeholders, teachers and Albertans and are making significant content and implementation changes to reflect this,” Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said in a statement.
“The steps we are taking now will ensure our students are learning from an updated curriculum that prepares them for the future.”
The province said the level of concern about the social studies draft has prompted them to discard its working copy, and draw up a new blueprint rearranging the order the information should be taught in.
The blueprint proposes to add lessons about more ancient civilizations, and move that material to Grade 5 from Grade 2.
Background material provided by the government said people had concerns about the age and developmental appropriateness of the content in social studies.
People giving feedback also said there was too much material for children to learn, and pointed to concerns about a lack of diverse perspectives and biased language.
These echo the concerns numerous critics have vocalized about all subjects of the draft elementary curriculum.
The government’s hand-picked adviser influencing the social studies curriculum has been under scrutiny for social media posts and writings critics say are racist and Eurocentric.
The government says more changes could be coming to address the concerns of Indigenous and Francophone Albertans. Officials have not provided specifics.
The government says it will appoint another advisory group, to begin work in the new year, to propose how the new K-6 curriculum should be introduced into classrooms. That group is supposed to give recommendations to the minister by spring.
The government hasn’t yet decided who will serve on the group or how many members it will have.
The education ministry will continue working on social studies, science, French and fine arts, and release new drafts for public consultation by spring.
It also plans to release a final version of the math, English and wellness curriculum by spring 2022.
Government officials say the timeline changes will also push back the development and launch of new curriculum in junior high and high school grades.
The Grade 7-12 material won’t make an appearance in classrooms until all subjects of the K-6 curriculum are ready to go.
The government had planned to pilot Grade 7-10 lessons in classrooms next school year, with the new curriculum becoming mandatory in those grades in fall 2023.
Around 7,800 students in 17 schools and school divisions are piloting the K-6 curriculum. The government has refused to say which schools are testing which subjects in which grades. There are 56 of 61 school boards that refused to pilot the material.
Pandemic another reason for delay, LaGrange says
LaGrange said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on schools is another reason for the delay.
She said the government is pushing ahead with the new math and language arts curriculum because she believes it will help bolster fundamental numeracy and literacy skills and help students whose learning suffered during the pandemic.
The feedback flowing in so far has also prompted the government to make changes to English language arts, science, fine arts and wellness, it said in Monday’s news release.
Some of the changes include a greater emphasis on performing skills in music, attention to body image and nutrition in wellness, and the addition of dinosaurs and more information on climate change in science.
Despite a Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendation that children begin learning about residential schools in kindergarten, the new social studies blueprint proposes introducing the topic in Grade 4.
LaGrange unveiled the proposed new K-6 curriculum in March, saying that voters had told government they wanted to dispense with educational fads and return to traditional methods of teaching, including an emphasis on acquiring knowledge, numeracy and literacy, and practical skills.
The curriculum rewrite had started under the province’s Progressive Conservative government and was continued under the New Democratic Party government elected in 2015.
When the United Conservative Party formed government in 2019, it brought in hand-picked advisers to rework some of the existing material.
But when it was made public, the proposed curriculum was widely panned by parents and educators, who levelled accusations of plagiarism, inaccuracies, and flaws in how it covers race, colonialism and Indigenous people.