Alberta Education officials say they are investigating allegations of plagiarism and factual inaccuracies the public has flagged in drafts of a new elementary school curriculum.
Among criticisms levelled at the United Conservative Party government’s proposed new K-6 curriculum are accusations that some content was copied from other sources without credit.
Readers have also flagged inaccuracies. One outcome in Grade 4 social studies asks students to find the distance between Regina and Duck Lake, Sask., on a map of Alberta.
In a webinar Thursday run by Alberta Education, Ashley Bodnar, executive director of early middle years, French education and First Nations Métis Inuit curriculum, said the department is taking note.
“I just want to let folks know that we are looking into these concerns and we’re researching them to make sure that they’re valid,” Bodnar said. “If there are valid concerns, for sure, we will be making changes to the curriculum as required.”
Last month, a University of Calgary plagiarism expert verified at least three incidents in the drafts of information lifted from other sources without credit.
During the webinar, viewers could submit questions but only the hosts could view them. A moderator summarized common queries by asking Bodnar and another official general questions about how the curriculum addresses First Nations, Métis and Inuit perspectives, or students with learning disabilities.
Bodnar and another director, Jennifer Cassidy, said the department has received questions about a perceived lack of Indigenous perspectives, age-appropriateness of some content, and how the wellness curriculum addresses healthy eating and body image.
Some people asked why there’s no mention of dinosaurs.
The drafts propose that seven-year-olds learn about the rise and fall of the Mongolian empire and that students in Grade 5 multiply fractions.
Bodnar said the sequence of expectations was guided by internal and external experts, Indigenous elders and knowledge keepers, teachers who participated in a two-day feedback session and education professors.
The government has not released their feedback, and its website says their participation in the process does not equate to an endorsement of the drafts.
The curriculum is scheduled to be piloted in some classrooms starting this fall. However, 53 of 61 school boards that use the Alberta curriculum say they will not participate. The material is supposed to be mandatory by September 2022.
Cindy Hill, an Edmonton parent of children in grades 4 and 7, said the webinar failed to address her concerns.
Among her worries are inaccuracies, topics introduced too early for young children to understand, a plan to teach history in chronological order, and waiting until Grade 5 to introduce lessons about residential schools.
“If they’re looking at everything we say negative about the curriculum as a political statement, as something coming from the other political party, they are clearly not listening to what we are trying to say,” Hill said.
Gael James, a Calgary teacher who has been writing to MLAs and government to stop the proposed curriculum, said it can’t be fixed.
She said teachers are expected to cover an unmanageable amount of material, and that rolling it out in all grades at once will leave some older students with gaps in their knowledge.
Nicole Sparrow, press secretary to Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, said the government has received about 24,000 responses to its online curriculum survey.
She said the draft is a preliminary document and that Alberta Education will continue to gather feedback.
Questions were hidden from view during the webinar for privacy reasons and to prevent the broadcast of any spam or profanity, Sparrow said.
The government has scheduled another webinar for May 13. Registration is full.