The Edmonton Public School Division will not be taking part in piloting the UCP government’s draft kindergarten to Grade 6 curriculum this September.
The decision was based on concerns around continuity for students learning online due to COVID-19, as well as a barrage of feedback trustees have received from parents about the content of the curriculum.
“It’s one of those moments where we have to speak up and share what our constituents are sharing with us,” said Edmonton Public School Board Chair Trisha Estabrooks.
According to Estabrooks, the feedback includes concerns around the age-appropriateness of the curriculum, that it doesn’t uphold the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and even has an “us-versus-them” mentality in social studies.
“When we are receiving so many emails and phone calls from people who are sharing their concerns — even though we don’t have direct control over curriculum — we do represent an important voice in public education,” she said.
Elk Island Public Schools has also announced it won’t be taking part in the pilot, while Edmonton Catholic Schools says it plans to consult with its teachers, administrators, Council of Elders and other community members before it makes a final decision.
The Calgary Board of Education, the largest school division in the province, says it needs to learn more about the rollout before it makes a decision as well.
Piloting the curriculum in the classroom is the next step before it is fully rolled out in September 2022.
“The entire point of a pilot for the draft curriculum is to provide in-classrooms feedback to affect potential changes for the final documents,” Justin Marshall, the press secretary for Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, said in a statement.
“If some school divisions do not wish to pilot, they simply will not be able to provide direct in-classroom feedback.”
Education advocates hope divisions opting out will send a clear message to the government.
“This needs to be a province-wide movement,” said Wing Li, the communications director with SOS Alberta.
The group is working with parent councils across Alberta to pressure school boards to opt out, and force the government to go back to the drawing board.
“School boards have an obligation to maintain the integrity of the school system and what is being taught, and we have seen such a barrage of concerns from community members.”
St. Albert Public Schools also said it will not participate in the pilot to implement the proposed Alberta curriculum in the 2021-2022 school year.
The district wrote a letter outlining its concerns — and concerns expressed by parents and staff — to Minister LaGrange on Jan. 21.
It described the guiding framework of the curriculum as “distressing” and said the document indicates the programs of study will “be a significant departure from the evidence-based curriculum that has made education in Alberta a world leader.”
Some of St. Albert Public Schools’ concerns include:
- A highly prescriptive scope and sequence within each subject and grade
- An emphasis on rote learning and memorization
- The framework maintains a Euro-centric narrative of knowledge and progress.
- The construction of First Nations, Métis and lnuit histories and communities as historical entities, without acknowledging their roles and contributions to present day Alberta.
In addition to the style and content, St. Albert Public Schools also has concerns with the pilot project’s timeline — specifically implementing a new curriculum in the midst of a pandemic.
— With files from Emily Mertz, Global News