Alberta announces sweeping six-year overhaul of school curricula at cost of $64M

Education Minister David Eggen says Alberta's overhaul of its education curricula will include topics such as climate change, gender diversity and sexual orientation.

EDMONTON — Education Minister David Eggen says Alberta’s overhaul of its education curricula will include topics such as climate change, gender diversity and sexual orientation.

Eggen announced Wednesday that his department will work with teachers and administrators to redefine six core subjects simultaneously and within six years for all grades.

“We’ll take a good hard look at how we can do a better job of addressing important topics such as climate change, gender disparity, financial literacy, coding and so, so much more.

“This critical work will set a road map for the future of education in our province.”

Eggen later confirmed to reporters that the new education framework will include teaching on gender diversity and sexual orientation.

“There will be a strengthened sense of teaching in the health curriculum around those issues, and I think it’s about time,” he said.

“We can see from the unfortunate circumstances in other countries, in other areas, that now more than ever we need to teach about inclusion and to teach about equality and social justice.

“But of course the cornerstone for us is to ensure that we teach strong and long and in a relevant way numeracy and literacy, those basic skills.”

The government has run into opposition from Catholic church leaders and some faith-based schools over mandating gay-straight alliances in schools and developing policies to support gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students.

When asked if he expects pushback from faith-based schools on teaching sexual orientation, Eggen said: “We will work with all of our partners with sensitivity and empathy … to ensure we build something that works for all students.”

Albertans will get to have their say in meetings and through online surveys starting this fall.

The revamp involves arts, language arts, math, social studies, science and wellness and, for the first time, will be developed in English and French.

It is to be rolled out in stages. The new plan for kindergarten to Grade 4 is to be done by 2018. The curriculum for Grades 5 to 8 is set for 2019. The high school plan is to be developed in phases from 2020 to 2022.

It will build on the principles of a recently completed curriculum framework that emphasizes student-centred direction. The revamp will cost $64 million.

Mark Ramsankar, president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, applauded Eggen for bringing his organization in as a full partner.

Ramsankar said the revised plans will need more focus and flexibility.

“When you have a program of studies with multiple objectives in it and you have a finite amount of time, it makes it difficult to cover all.

“We want to enrich the experience by looking at fewer objectives, but a richer experience for students.”

Mary Martin, vice-president of the Alberta School Boards Association, said her group is pleased to see the province will emphasize teaching the perspectives and histories of francophone, First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples.

The Opposition Wildrose party said it wants more details on how to ensure students are taught the fundamentals.

“We need to take the time to get this review done right and avoid change just for the sake of change,” said education critic Mark Smith.

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