April 9, 2014 8:28 pm
Updated: April 9, 2014 9:14 pm

‘Corporations should not be deciding what students learn’: Alberta NDP


EDMONTON – The NDP is expressing concern over major oil and gas companies like Cenovus, Suncor and Syncrude taking part in Alberta’s curriculum re-design. The party is not alone – more than 26,000 people have signed a petition also opposed to the idea.

The NDP tabled the petition in the House Wednesday. NDP Education Critic Deron Bilous says it’s his hope that the province will remove corporations from the curriculum discussions.

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“Never in Alberta’s history have we had oil and gas companies invited to sit at the table deciding what goes into the curriculum in K-12,” Bilous said.

“Corporations are profit-driven and have a legal obligation to maximize their profits for their shareholders. They are not educational experts and should not be deciding what our kids are learning in this province, especially in Kindergarten to Grade 3.”

Dan Scratch, who teaches social studies in an Edmonton high school, is concerned as well.

“I worry about the content, what’s going to be taught. I worry about the corporatization of education,” he said.

Biotech, software companies, and First Nations groups have also been invited to participate in the curriculum review, which is being led by the Edmonton Public School Board. Education Minister Jeff Johnson says the diversity of opinions will lead to a stronger education system.

“The general theme of this is: we want to listen to everybody, everybody has a stake in the education system, and those companies are employing Albertans,” Johnson said.

“We want to listen, and we want to engage with everyone who’s a part of Alberta’s economy when we’re looking at trying to understand what skills our kids need.”

A spokesperson for Cenovus Energy says the company is able to offer educators insight on the specific skills it’s looking for from high school graduates.

“So critical thinking skills, and that kind of thing,” said Reg Curren. “Things that make them succeed as they leave education and enter whether it’s the oil and gas industry, or technologies.”

Still, Bilous insists that consultation can happen without Big Oil at the table.

“What kids learn in school should be decided by teachers, parents and educational experts, not by corporations.”

With files from Tom Vernon, Global News

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