Protesters call for Alberta government to scrap K-6 draft curriculum

Dozens of educators, parents and children gathered at the Alberta Legislature Saturday to protest the implementation of the new elementary school curriculum, part of which is slated to be taught to students this fall.

“Ditch the Draft Curriculum” protests took place in Calgary, Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Red Deer and in the Vermillion-Lloydminster-Wainwright area. Attendees rallied against the new kindergarten to Grade 6 curriculum, which has been under fire for months.

“Enough is enough. This curriculum is not worthy of our students,” said Carla Peck, a professor of social studies education at the University of Alberta, who helped organize the protest at the Legislature.

“The quality is not good enough; it’s going to set Alberta education — and the students who receive that education — back 50 years or more.”

The provincial government started reviewing the K-6 curriculum in 2019, then began drafting a new one in the summer of 2020. The drafted curriculum was open to the public to review and provide feedback until February.

Many have critiqued the process as well as the curriculum’s content — particularly the social studies portion, which educators, parents and Indigenous leaders and elders called racist, Eurocentric, age-inappropriate and misinformed.

The provincial government has since rewrote the social studies draft curriculum.

Carla Peck, a professor of social studies education at the University of Alberta, helped organize the protest in Edmonton Saturday. (Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC)

In January, the province formed an advisory group — consisting of 17 bureaucrats, superintendents, school trustees and educators — to figure out how best to implement the new curriculum in the fall.

The protesters out Saturday hope their pleas will make the Alberta government reconsider moving ahead with the process and, ultimately, draw up a different curriculum for students, Peck said.

“This curriculum is ultimately about the future of our province, the future that our students will have and grow into,” she said, noting that curricula can be around for 20 years or more.

“It really matters — the quality of curriculum that we’re putting into schools —  and we’ve got to get it right.”

Heather Taschuk, a teacher and parent, has many concerns about the draft curriculum, including how the province wants teachers to teach it. (Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC)

Peck also wants teachers to have more say in the drafting process, she said.

Heather Taschuk, a teacher and parent to a Grade 3 student, attended the legislative grounds Saturday. She held a pink sign that suggests the draft curriculum forces students to memorize what they’re taught, instead of giving them room to explore for themselves.

After pushing through the past two years, many teachers see continuing with the draft curriculum as a breaking point, she said.

“When we know that it isn’t the way to go, we don’t have buy-in. We don’t want to be putting this out there when they’re already tapped out,” Taschuk said.

The Alberta government respects the right to peaceful protest, but stands by it’s “transparent and open” year-long curriculum review process, said Katherine Stavropoulos, press secretary for Education Minister Adrian LaGrange, in a statement to CBC News.

“Parents have been clear that they expect our education system to provide their children with a strong foundation of essential knowledge and skills and that is exactly what our government intends to deliver,” Stavropoulos said.

The government is taking all feedback, from public engagement and classroom piloting, into account regarding the content of the draft curriculum, Stravropoulos added.

ATA president worried by how little piloting done

Jason Schilling, Alberta Teachers’ Association president, attended the protest in Edmonton, backing the concerns raised by Peck and other protesters.

“Lots of groups are saying, ‘No. We do not want this in our schools.’ And we’re not seeing the government listen to those concerns,” Schilling told CBC News.

He is also worried about how much the curriculums have been tested in classrooms, prior to rollout.

Last spring, school authorities could volunteer to participate in a pilot project where teachers could choose one or more subjects from the new curriculum to teach in classrooms from September to February of the current school year.

A small number of teachers opted to teach subjects other than English language arts, math and physical education and wellness. French language subjects were not piloted.

Jason Schilling, Alberta Teachers’ Association president, is concerned about how much subjects were piloted before being rolled out to students. (Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC)

The province is taking a “balanced and measured” approach to implement the curriculum into schools, based on advice from its advisory group, Stravropoulous said.

Last month, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced that students in kindergarten to Grade 3 will be taught the new math and English language arts curriculums in September, but Grade 4 to 6 students won’t be taught the new curriculum in those subject areas until the following school year.

All K-6 students will be taught the new wellness and physical education curriculum in the fall, however.

By May, the provincial advisory group will make recommendations about piloting and implementing curriculums for fine arts, science, social studies, French first language and literature and French immersion language arts and literature, the province’s website says.

Schilling has not heard much feedback from teachers involved in drafting the curriculum because they were forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement that lasted for one year, he said.

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