Political parties made their pitches Saturday to a room full of teachers at an event organized by the Alberta Teachers’ Association.
Large class sizes, teacher salaries and inclusion were among the many topics discussed as the province moves closer to a spring election, which must happen before the end of May.
Education Minister David Eggen, Alberta Liberal Party Leader David Khan, UCP Education Critic Mark Smith, Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel and Freedom Conservative Party VP of Communications Jeff Rout took turns debating at the forum.
One topic that drew lots of discussion between the participants was the current curriculum review.
Comments made two weeks ago by UCP Leader Jason Kenney that he would “stop the NDP’s ideological re-write of the school curriculum” continued to resonate at the event.
“What’s not normal about this whole process is the UCP, Jason Kenney chose to use the curriculum as a political tool to score cheap political points,” said Eggen.
Smith, who agrees the review is overdue, said he is not convinced the K-4 curriculum is balanced.
“Mr. Kenney has said that if we find this is a poorly ideological curriculum we are going to make changes,” Smith said.
However, other political parties took aims at his comments.
Khan said there is no reason to scrap the current review and said he would consult with educators.
“The curriculum review is posted,” Khan said to Smith. “Why can’t you make a principled position on it?”
Mandel, who brought up a continuous process of curriculum design, said the province should not play football with children’s futures.
Smith took issue with the process behind the review.
“We’ve talked to experts, some of which have some pretty serious concerns, specifically around the math and the social studies,” he said.
Greg Jeffery, president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, said the organization has confidence in the process.
“We believe absolutely the expertise has been there, not only from the 300 teachers that I mentioned as part of the process, but from our post-secondary institutions as well. There have been academics involved in the process,” he said.
Smith said the ATA has brought forward concerns about the curriculum review, which appears to contradict statements made by Jeffery.
“There might be some tweaking necessary when you’re looking at it with a different political lens. I think the main body of the work will stand,” Jeffery said.
The new K-4 curriculum will be tested in the fall and implementation could take place province-wide in 2020.
–with files from Canadian Press