The Alberta government’s new curriculum will be phased in starting this September, the education minister announced on Thursday.
Subjects will be introduced based on what the government has identified as a need as well as by age.
Starting this September, students in kindergarten to Grade 3 will have a new math and English language arts curriculum.
According to Adriana LaGrange, students in that age group have been experiencing challenges in those subjects.
“This will help our younger students who are in the critical early stages of their development strengthen their literacy and numeracy skills,” she told reporters on Thursday.
Grades 4 to 6 will see the new math and English language arts curriculum starting next school year, September 2023.
All kindergarten to Grade 6 students will see a new physical education and wellness curriculum this September.
“This will support students learning how to build resiliency and manage their health, mental health and well-being — life skills that are more important now than ever,” LaGrange said.
The final curricula being implemented this fall will be posted in April at new.learnalberta.ca.
In December, the government announced it would be delaying the full implementation of its proposed curriculum. The draft plan received fierce opposition from some students and teachers across Alberta.
The draft curriculum, released in March 2021, focuses on literacy, numeracy and practical skills including computer coding, budgets and public speaking. At the time, LaGrange said it applies to eight core subjects and reflects dominant themes and concerns expressed by parents.
“They told us they wanted to leave behind educational fads and unproven methods of discovery or inquiry learning,” LaGrange told a news conference.
In April, the Alberta Teachers’ Association called on the province to immediately scrap the proposed plan and start again.
“This curriculum is fatally flawed,” president Jason Schilling said. “Many of the teachers believe that putting it before children will cause harm. We cannot allow that to happen.”
In January, the province announced it was taking steps forward to ensure that a new curriculum would be in effect this fall, including a month of virtual engagement sessions.
A new curriculum implementation advisory group was also formed at the time that included superintendents, curriculum experts, classroom teachers, an elementary principal and people from the Alberta School Boards Association and the Alberta College of School Superintendents.
“The measured strategy that we’re announcing today is based on their valuable insight and expert advice,” LaGrange said.
The Opposition NDP has been fighting the implementation of the new curriculum and education critic Sarah Hoffman said in a statement she is happy to see some of the curriculum has been delayed.
“To the parents, teachers, academics and community leaders who have joined us in fighting back, this is a small victory, and you should be proud,” she said in a news release.
But there were still concerns about what will be in the curriculum.
“Parents rightfully want to ensure that their children are getting a world class education, which has long been the reputation for Albertans, this is no longer the case under the UCP,” Hoffman said.
“The UCP seems focused on ramming through a curriculum that won’t help students prepare for higher learning, the world of work or how to be engaged citizens.”
New funding to implement changes
In an effort to make implementing the new curriculum as “successful and practical” as possible, LaGrange also announced $191 million to be spent over three years.
Of that, $59 million will be spent this year to facilitate teacher development by allowing teachers to participate in “collaborative learning opportunities” to understand the new curriculum as well as to buy teaching resources aligned with the new curriculum.
The remaining funding will be allotted into future budget years to support implementation of the remaining subjects.
Teachers’ union concerned about curriculum content and rollout
In a news release Thursday afternoon, the Alberta Teachers Association, the union that represents 46,000 teachers in the province, released the results of a survey into the new curriculum.
The survey was presented to 800 Albertans aged 18 and older and 825 ATA members.
“Only three per cent of teachers feel they have the resources and supports needed to successfully implement the draft K–6 curriculum this fall,” the ATA said in a news release.
“Almost half of Alberta residents don’t believe the draft curriculum will meet the needs of students, and six in 10 feel that the Alberta government is mishandling public education.”
While LaGrange said she hadn’t seen the latest survey, she said she looks forward to addressing the concerns of the ATA as the rollout moves forward.
“We do believe there will be enough time to implement,” she said, pointing to the expertise of the curriculum implementation advisory group.