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Alberta government announces K-6 social studies curriculum plan, timeline

Alberta Education, citing “the valuable feedback Albertans have provided over the last two years,” announced today that they will begin redrafting the K-6 social studies curriculum. 

“I am confident this engagement process with teachers, parents, Indigenous, Métis, multicultural and francophone leaders, subject matter experts, school boards and others will build a comprehensive curriculum,” reads the news release, quoting Demetrios Nicolaides, Alberta’s minister of education.

Revisions to the province’s education curricula — especially social studies — have been a heated subject of debate for the past few years.

A draft social studies curriculum proposed by Nicolaides’ predecessor, Adriana LaGrange, was delayed following public backlash and criticism from the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA), among others. The material was criticized for being age-inappropriate and culturally exclusive. 

Now, ATA president Jason Schilling said he believes the development of the K-6 social studies curriculum is “back on track” due to the development and implementation timeline.

“I’m encouraged to see that they’re moving in a better direction,” he said.

The new draft features a yearlong field testing period, something Schilling says is an important part of determining whether the curriculum is appropriate for students to move up to the next grade — something he believes the math curriculum field test lacked.

The ATA president says this year’s newly implemented math curriculum only saw a roughly four-and-a-half month field test, which was too short a period of time to get an understanding of how the curriculum is working.

“As the students are trying to learn these new, more complex math problems, they don’t have the prerequisite knowledge, and that’s why the math curriculum is not going very well right now in a lot of our schools. We don’t want to see that happen in social studies,” he said.

Alberta Education’s news release says the K-6 social studies plan will take a phased approach to collaborate with a “diverse range of stakeholders” at different stages of the curriculum’s development and implementation.

According to their Sept. 18 news release, Alberta Education’s K-6 social studies curriculum implementation timeline is as follows:

  • Fall 2023: Alberta’s social studies plan focuses on a new engagement approach to help the curriculum’s development. Using a survey and online discussion guide, available until Oct. 16, the government plans to gather information from Albertans on what they would like students to learn.

  • Early 2024: Albertans will be able to view the K-6 social studies curriculum draft and have the opportunity to provide feedback on key learnings within the scope of the K-12 social studies curriculum.

  • Throughout the 2024-25 school year: The final phase of engagement, the refined K-6 social studies curriculum draft will be piloted in classrooms, giving teachers the opportunity to provide further feedback.

Schilling hopes teacher input during the field-testing phase will help the age appropriateness of the social studies curriculum.

“The news release today shows that the government listened to the criticisms that were out there and abandoned the path that they were going down,” he said.

But the ATA president still has concerns about funding. He says Alberta’s public school students receive the lowest funding per-capita in the country, according to data from Statistics Canada published by the ATA in February 2023.

“How are they going to fund [this curriculum implementation]?” he said.

“You have to fund it properly so that teachers and students and school boards can implement it properly.”

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