Original Published 09:36 Apr 21, 2022

By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The province will be moving forward with its new curriculum this September.

Alberta’s minister of education Adriana LaGrange made the announcement last Wednesday (April 13).

The province will be implementing a new curriculum in mathematics and English language arts and literature for kindergarten to grade 3 and a new physical education and wellness curriculum will be in place for kindergarten to grade 6.

“These three subjects in Alberta’s new K-6 curriculum are critical starting points that will set students on the best path for success,” said LaGrange last week.

The curriculum continues to bring forth vocal opponents.

“It’s really depressing from a parent’s standpoint, it feels like there’s not really much that can be done just yet, and I just think that the average Albertan needs to understand what it’s going to actually look like in the classroom,” said Marina Chondros, who has two children at École St-Gérard Catholic School in Grades 2 and 4.

“I want parents to understand that there’s going to be an actual impact in what the classroom is going to look like and that the children are going to have to be sitting at a desk for so much more than they’ve ever had to before, and that academic success is most likely going to start being measured by just their ability to recall facts and information.”

Still, LaGrange says the province has been revising the content to reflect the feedback it has received during the review process, via classroom piloting and engagement activities.

School divisions were given the opportunity to pilot the draft curriculum in the 2021/2022 school year. Many, including the Peace Wapiti Public School Division (PWPSD) and Grande Prairie and District Catholic School Division (GPCSD), did not.

Meanwhile, the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA) wants the province to release all the collected commentary to determine if those concerns were considered and addressed.

“Teachers don’t trust this minister to take their concerns seriously,” said Jason Schilling, ATA president. “This government has a steady track record of putting in their earplugs and dismissing the legitimate concerns of teachers.”

Parents also have their worries about the curriculum.

“I think it’s going to be bringing education down to something where it’s going to be focusing solely on rote memory,” said Chondros.

LaGrange said the content load, age appropriateness, word clarity, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit content were examined to be better represented in the new curriculum.

But ATA president Schilling said Albertans “don’t know if today’s version of the curriculum incorporates that feedback or, instead, continues to reflect the political and ideological interference that has plagued this process so far.”

“The new English Language Arts and Literature curriculum is grounded in research and allows for explicit and systematic instruction in foundational skills such as phonological awareness, phonics, fluency and vocabulary,” said George Georgiou, University of Alberta professor in the department of educational psychology, at Wednesday’s announcement.

For parent Chondros, it’s a little reassurance. “I think a lot of parents have never really had a reason to look at the current curriculum and see what their child is learning and what differences it’s going to be this time around,” she said.

The new physical education and wellness curriculum fulfills the government’s commitments in ensuring all elementary school students learn the importance of obtaining and providing consent, as well as fundamental financial literacy skills, said LaGrange.

“We also further enhanced physical education and wellness content in several areas, including consent, mental health, nutrition, and safety,” she added.

Chondros says that the physical education curriculum has too many theoretical concepts that will have students at desks instead of engaging in physical activity.

She estimates that 89 per cent of the physical education portion will be desk work while 11 per cent will be actual physical activity.

“Most studies have actually found that when the children have some time allowed for them to kind of burn off energy, they tend to actually be more well-placed to absorb information and be better learners,” said Chondros. “I think people are reluctant to throw their support behind a movement that they see as being political.

“It’s turned political, and now my kids are suffering the consequence,” says Chondros.

“Curriculum has never been weaponized, it’s always been a little controversial, but it’s never been weaponized like this before,” said Andrea Willman, a substitute teacher for Grande Prairie Public School Division and mother of two in Grades two and five.

She believes political parties on both sides are using the curriculum for political gains.

This item reprinted with permission from Town & Country News, Beaverlodge, Alberta