Opinion: Teachers could have helped with Alberta draft curriculum

The Alberta government recently released draft copies of their new curriculum for all subjects in Grades K-6, which is the latest step in a very long process towards revising these programs of study, outlining what skills and knowledge students should be expected to gain through their years in our world-class Alberta public and Catholic schools.

This government could have continued the years of contributions to this process by tens of thousands of teachers, parents, and other stakeholders. However, this government chose to bring in their own hand-picked, highly-paid consultants from outside of Alberta and start over from scratch.

This government would have had us believe that our world-class Alberta education system was in crisis, ignoring the fact that across all age levels and subjects, compared to students from around the world, Alberta students consistently scored in the top five among all nations.

This government should have consulted with those who know student learning best in their final deliberations on their curriculum – that being the teachers of Alberta.

Teachers could have told this government that the topics and examples that they chose are not age-appropriate and accessible for children at those developmental stages, and that a strong curriculum creates a symbiotic relationship between learning of content and the student’s desire to learn more about these topics.

In fact, many of the topics and concepts contained in this deeply flawed curriculum are borrowed from American states with school systems that perform at a far lower level than our Alberta students are capable of.

Our students deserve programs of study that encourage deep, critical thought processes that allow them to make meaningful connections between learning outcomes, factual knowledge, and personal experiences. Our students deserve better than simple rote memorization of bits of information, and their diversity deserves to be honoured in a way that does not attempt to sugar-coat our nation’s history, nor dispute the worldviews of various citizen groups by ignoring the injustices faced by Indigenous populations.

Furthermore, our students deserve better assessment methods than canned, curved, standardized assessments that are only used as information after the fact, and in some instances, publicized to shame students and schools that don’t measure up to a fictional, curved statistical benchmark.

Learning is so much more than a number, as any student or teacher will tell you. It is about a trusting relationship that encourages exploration of complex topics and building of skills, and the thrill that comes with new discoveries and reaching personalized learning goals – none of which are compatible with this new curriculum.

With the COVID19 pandemic continuing to impact the operations of our schools across the province, and the strains that have been placed on school staff and students, the suggested timeline for piloting and implementing this curriculum within the next school year is perhaps overly ambitious, even presuming positive intentions by the current government.

The students of Alberta need your support – please consider reviewing the new draft curriculum documents for yourself, and then completing this survey to share your perspectives on alberta.ca.

Stephen Merredew is the Alberta Teachers’ Association Red Deer Catholic Local #80 president.

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