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More questions raised after UCP provide update on curriculum review

Last Updated Aug 7, 2020 at 6:13 am MST

EDMONTON (660 NEWS) – The Alberta government says it’s moving forward on its campaign promise to rewrite the K-12 curriculum, but some are still wondering what exactly is changing.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange provided an updated Thursday on the review of the curriculum launched last summer.

LaGrange said she has now signed off on repealing a ministerial order from 2013 that focused on discovery learning and replaced it with a new order to return to a foundation of literacy and numeracy.

“This new ministerial order on student learning is a return to proven teaching methods that will set up Alberta’s students for rich personal and work lives. Moving forward, education will promote skills development and knowledge pursuit, equipping students to explore opportunities that will help them develop their talents and unleash their potential.”

RELATED: Alberta curriculum review urges focus on basic learning, standardized tests

LaGrange was joined by chair of the curriculum review panel Angus McBeath who said schools need to return to basics and look at evidence and fact-based material.

“I fundamentally believe that students should gain the knowledge and skills they need to form foundations for successful and fulfilling lives. Literacy and numeracy are the bedrock for successful learning, and I am pleased that the final ministerial order recognizes that importance.”

The United Conservatives vowed in the 2019 election to pause the current curriculum review set up by the previous NDP government.

Premier Jason Kenney stated the curriculum changes featured bias, ideological and socialist views in areas like social studies.

When asked what biases were present in the curriculum the UCP hoped to change, LaGrange did not provide a clear answer, stating there were numerous cases of bias on some exams provided by individual teachers.

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LaGrange did post a photo earlier this year of a test that featured a question asking what negative effects there are of the oilsands, stating “keep politics out of the classroom.”

The announcement is leaving many with more questions than answers.

The public education advocacy group Support Our Students weighed in saying the UCP is constantly making false claims on student performance.

“Persistent and repeated references to increasing literacy, numeracy and competency fails to acknowledge that Alberta students perform exceedingly well on international measures such as the PISA test,” SOS said in a release.

“To omit that Alberta students scored third in the world in reading and fourth in science in the lastest results is disingenuous.
Alberta also scored second highest in math, among Canadian provinces, behind Quebec.”

Executive Director Carolyn Blasetti also took aim at the government’s claims of bias in the curriculum and pointing to teacher interpretation of the material saying they are not related.

NDP MLA Janis Irwin tweeted following the announcement saying “I taught social studies. I worked in curriculum for years. Teachers do an incredible job making curriculum come alive. The current social studies curriculum ensures multiple perspectives on issues and engages critical thinking–is that what the minister calls bias?”

Irwin added parents and teachers have told her they’re more concerned about being safe in schools during the COVID-19 pandemic than with curriculum.

That statement echoed by education critic Sarah Hoffman who said the Minister has a responsibility to keep kids safe above all else.

“The UCP is trying to distract from the fact that they haven’t acted to make schools safe for September,” said Hoffman. “If she can’t keep kids safe she has no business being the Minister or Education.”

The original K-4 curriculum drafted in 2018 was scheduled to start in 2019 before the UCP paused that move.

LaGrange said the government will now review the draft curriculum brought forward by the panel and extend validation to include grades 5 and 6.

Participating schools are expected to start testing the draft curriculum in September 2021 with grade 7-10 hoping to start the following year.