PRSD, CSNO say ‘no’ to curriculum pilot

Susan Thompson
South Peace News

Peace River School Division has joined other major divisions across the province in refusing to pilot a new K-6 curriculum during the 2021-22 school year.

An update to Alberta’s curriculum that began in 2016 had been nearly completed under the NDP’s government after input from thousands of Albertans.

However, Premier Jason Kenney said he wanted to scrap what he called the NDP’s “ideological rewrite” to eliminate what he claims are teaching fads.

Since the UCP’s new curriculum has been released, a host of issues from alleged plagiarism to problems with basic scientific concepts to developmentally inappropriate material included in younger grades, have all been identified by experts and educators across Alberta who have raised their concerns that the curriculum is not up to current educational standards.

In addition to those concerns, PRSD Supt. Paul Bennett says the Division also doesn’t want to add to the stress on students in an already stressful pandemic year.

PRSD announced April 19 their schools would not be piloting the curriculum.

However, PRSD is still seeking feedback on the curriculum from staff and school communities until May 21.

PRSD says the feedback will be discussed and shared during upcoming meetings between the PRSD board of trustees and elected officials such as Peace River MLA Dan Williams, Central Peace-Notley MLA Todd Loewen and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange.

PRSD will also be meeting with officials to begin advocating that the government adequately fund staffing and supports for student mental health and wellness based on the results of a recent mental health survey the division completed.

The Conseil scolaire du Nord-Ouest has also decided against piloting the new curriculum.

“In our view, the proposed curriculum, in general, does not respect the student’s cognitive development,” says CSNO board chair Sylvianne Maisonneuve.

“The significant absence of the Francophone perspective in all subjects does not promote the full development of francophone minority students.”

The curriculum has also been criticized for how it handles First Nations history and culture in Alberta and Canada.

In a public letter to the government that is set to be read aloud in the Legislature by the NDP opposition, local educator Sarah Nickonchuk says.

“As a parent, my reaction was that of disbelief at the content that my children would be required to learn in schools. As a proud Franco-Albertan, I struggled to relate to and to see myself in the plethoric social studies content, which leans far too heavily on American worldviews to be appropriate for children living in Canada. As an educator, I combed through much of the social studies, science, music and math curricula to find evidence of higher order thinking.

“I was disappointed to find that this curriculum focuses far too much on memorization and rote learning of items that can be easily found using a quick internet search, rather than teaching important essential skills such as critical thinking, synthesis and evaluation,” she says.

The Alberta Teachers’ Association says LaGrange cancelled a memorandum of understanding in 2019 that had prioritized the input of teachers and experts. An ATA survey found 91 per cent of teachers are unhappy with the new draft curriculum.

ATA president Jason Schilling says the curriculum is “fatally flawed, and teachers, academics and curriculum experts should work on a revised version.”

In return, LaGrange has accused the ATA of “politicizing” the curriculum.

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