Alberta politicians of all stripes agree that a modern, up-to-date curriculum is needed for kids in Alberta classrooms. What they can’t agree on is when to roll it out.
Started under the Stelmach government, continued by successive Conservative governments and then largely written by the NDP in broad consultation with parents, teachers and other stakeholders, this much-needed curriculum has been a long time coming. And now, the latest update is a press of the pause button as United Conservatives get their bearings following the spring 2019 election.
The Kenney government’s decision to put the overall K-12 curriculum redesign on hold is in some ways a relief, as it means the efforts of thousands of Albertans who care most about education won’t necessarily be wasted (not to mention the millions of taxpayers dollars spent on the new curriculum and the consultation to shape it). Instead of a full rewrite, the current government has committed to review what has been done to date and then determine next steps. This was a promise Premier Kenney made during the campaign, one which Albertans should expect him to keep.
And now Albertans should also expect the new curriculum to be implemented as soon as possible.
Politics are fair enough. A new government taking office has every right — even a duty — to examine closely the decisions of its predecessor and determine appropriate next steps. But as the Ward D Trustee for EPSB I can say unequivocally that the new curriculum is what students need.
Following the UCP decision to hold off on rolling the curriculum out reporters asked me about reaction from teachers. I’m a trustee; I would never speak on behalf of teachers. What I did say, though, is that hundreds of staff, including many EPSB teachers and curriculum experts, have poured their hearts and souls into the curriculum redesign. Furthermore, EPSB estimates we have spent about $6 million in staff time dedicated to this initiative.
Alberta Education has done its due diligence, in consultation with stakeholders and the public and under several Ministers of varying political allegiances. The new curriculum is ready for the next step: field testing in classrooms for kindergarten through Grade 4.
Dozens of schools at Edmonton Public are keen to start field testing. They know first-hand how out of date parts of the existing curriculum are, particularly as it relates to climate change and the history and culture of First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples. These aspects of science, history and social studies are vital to our understanding of the modern world, our place on the planet and our human potential. Given the fact that some parts of the current curriculum are more than three decades old, there is clearly a need for the UCP’s review of the new curriculum to happen quickly, with field testing as the next step.
As of yet, EPSB has heard no timelines from Education Minister Adriana LaGrange about when the new curriculum will be field tested. Until we do, we wait. Teachers wait. Parents wait. And students wait.
Patience is certainly a virtue for all of us to learn through practice. Right now we can only hope the new Education Minister is not planning to follow up with a lesson in disappointment.