June 15, 2016 2:08 pm
Updated: June 15, 2016 8:10 pm

Alberta announces sweeping 6-year overhaul of school curricula at cost of $64M

WATCH ABOVE: Changes are coming to what kids will be learning at school. The provincial government is embarking on a $65 million, six-year process to completely rewrite Alberta's curriculum. Provincial affairs reporter Tom Vernon explains.

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Education Minister David Eggen says Alberta’s overhaul of its education curricula will include topics such as climate change, gender diversity and sexual orientation.

Eggen announced Wednesday that his department will work with teachers and administrators to redefine six core subjects simultaneously and within six years for all grades.

“We’ll take a good hard look at how we can do a better job of addressing important topics such as climate change, gender disparity, financial literacy, coding and so, so much more.

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“This critical work will set a road map for the future of education in our province.”

READ MORE: Change to Alberta’s Education Act would move kindergarten cut-off age

Eggen later confirmed to reporters that the new education framework will include teaching on gender diversity and sexual orientation.

“There will be a strengthened sense of teaching in the health curriculum around those issues, and I think it’s about time,” he said.

“We can see from the unfortunate circumstances in other countries, in other areas, that now more than ever we need to teach about inclusion and to teach about equality and social justice.

“But of course the cornerstone for us is to ensure that we teach strong and long and in a relevant way numeracy and literacy, those basic skills.”

Watch below: Alberta Education Minister David Eggen speaks about curriculum overhaul 

The government has run into opposition from Catholic church leaders and some faith-based schools over mandating gay-straight alliances in schools and developing policies to support gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students.

When asked if he expects pushback from faith-based schools on teaching sexual orientation, Eggen said: “We will work with all of our partners with sensitivity and empathy … to ensure we build something that works for all students.”

READ MORE: Alberta dad responds after mom raps criticism of transgender guidelines for Alberta schools

Albertans will get to have their say in meetings and through online surveys starting this fall.

The revamp involves arts, language arts, math, social studies, science and wellness and, for the first time, will be developed in English and French.

It is to be rolled out in stages. The new plan for kindergarten to Grade 4 is to be done by 2018. The curriculum for Grades 5 to 8 is set for 2019. The high school plan is to be developed in phases from 2020 to 2022.

It will build on the principles of a recently completed curriculum framework that emphasizes student-centred direction. The revamp will cost $64 million.

Watch below: Does Alberta’s sex ed curriculum need to be updated?

Mark Ramsankar, president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, applauded Eggen for bringing his organization in as a full partner.

Ramsankar said the revised plans will need more focus and flexibility.

“When you have a program of studies with multiple objectives in it and you have a finite amount of time, it makes it difficult to cover all.

“We want to enrich the experience by looking at fewer objectives, but a richer experience for students.”

READ MORE: Online porn, sexting should be included in sex ed. curriculum, Alberta professor says

Mary Martin, vice-president of the Alberta School Boards Association, said her group is pleased to see the province will emphasize teaching the perspectives and histories of francophone, First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.

The Opposition Wildrose party said it wants more details on how to ensure students are taught the fundamentals.

“We need to take the time to get this review done right and avoid change just for the sake of change,” said education critic Mark Smith.

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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