The NDP government is looking to redevelop Alberta’s curriculum over the next six years.
Minister of Education Dave Eggen began a tour of Alberta regarding curriculum reform on October 18. The minister visited Henry Voisin School in Red Deer, after the province released an online survey that morning – which had already had 40,000 Albertans sign up and take part at the time of the Central Albertan consultation.
“We announced the curriculum survey this morning – it’s up and it’s live,” Eggen said. “It is a way for Albertan’s to give us feedback on what needs improvement with our curriculum as well as ways we can approach that. It is part of curriculum redesign that we will be doing over the next number of months and years.”
The survey is the first step of public consultations and will be available for Albertan’s to have their voice heard until November 18. The public consultations will continue throughout the province in order for educators, parents, experts and any other Albertan to have input on how the new curriculum will be developed and implemented.
“I would suggest that people take the survey and come to the meetings and watch what happens,” Eggen said. “With something as critical as curriculum and education, it’s important to provide constructive criticism that actually contributes to building curriculum and making a better education system for our children.”
The consultation in Red Deer began when one citizen started off the question period by asking the minister why he can “no longer call his son and daughter ‘he’ and ‘she’” because of the new NDP government – a misunderstanding of Bill 10 which allows LGBTQ students to have access to gay-straight alliances in school to protect them from bullying and allow them to have a safe-space while they attend school.
The minister quickly corrected the individual by saying the government is not forcing parents into using improper pronouns for their children and that the government will continue to protect all students in their schools – including LGBTQ students.
The conversation then moved onto more specific curriculum related issues, with Alberta’s curriculum being anywhere from 8-30 years old depending on the region and school.
One parent, Trish Robichaud, expressed worry over the implementation of new sexual education curriculum with her view being that it is her job as a parent to teach something “so intimate” to her children.
Minister Eggen assured Robichaud that parents will have the choice to opt out of sexual education, as they currently do, and that any changes made to the current sexual education curriculum will be made coinciding with best practice and research. He also mentioned that it will not be an omnibus implementation as Albertans saw happen in Ontario.
Best practice was the ongoing theme of the evening regarding how curriculum change will be implemented.
“We look for best practices wherever we find them,” Eggen said. “When we find modifications to improve this curriculum – we will do them as we move along. It is not a process that is wrapped up in box – we do it on an ongoing basis.”
There are some changes that Eggen, a former teacher, feels can be implemented – although he said he will defer to the experts.
“I know as a teacher, observer and minister that we could use some improvement with math, language arts, communication, specifically basic math skills, problem solving, and critical thinking,” Eggen said. “There is a whole range of things I would like to see but again I will make my contribution and defer to best practice.”
An example of ongoing changes that can be made throughout the six-year process is the inclusion of a no calculator section in the Grade 6 achievement exams which was implemented by the minister in order to evaluate basic math skills.
Public consultation will be a key part of the six-year curriculum redevelopment.
“I look forward to the next weeks and months and I think we will set a good tone of collaboration,” he said. “I look forward to constructive criticism of existing curriculum. I think if we approach this with the goal in mind of our children’s welfare – I think we will be very successful.”