Come September, schools will be able to choose to pilot the new K to Grade Six draft of the social studies curriculum.

According to the province, the new curriculum is a result of, 'extensive engagement with Albertans and education partners over the past eight months, as well as research and best practices from other jurisdictions.'

Key changes of the new curriculum the province highlighted include:

  • Strengthen opportunities that encourage the development of critical thinking skills, including research and analytical skills, throughout the curriculum.
  • Enhance the development of skills related to the concept of active citizenship.
  • Address feedback on developmental appropriateness and load.
  • Engage students in learning that promotes understanding of diversity across Canada and throughout the world, including First Nations, Métis, Inuit and francophone histories, contributions and perspectives.
  • Reflect the growth of learners through learning progressions that expand from individual experiences to communities and beyond.

Demetrios Nicolaides, Minister of Education said since the draft was released on March 14, thousands of responses were considered.

"We did hear positive comments about the increased emphasis placed on indigenous peoples in histories, the increased emphasis on history and educating students about the importance of democracy and we also heard positive comments on including additional content to help our students become active and responsible citizens."

Nicolaides underlined that there were also comments regarding moving content to older grades and ways to better promote an understanding of diversity across Canada and around the world.

"We've taken this feedback to help make changes. For example, some content that was originally in Grade Two, such as taxes, has now been moved to Grade Five. The total amount of content found in some grades such as in Grade four has been reduced to respond to concerns around content load."

The province also underlined that it is providing 'flexibility in how school authorities participate in optional classroom piloting, including which grades are a part of the pilot and how many learning outcomes will receive feedback.'

"This means that they can choose to pilot all or some of the draft curriculum. They can decide how many teachers will participate in the process and how many learning outcomes they will work with," Nicolaides added. "Budget 2024 has already set aside $34 million for this year here to support curriculum implementation, and these funds will be available to school boards who choose to pilot."

The government said that teachers will be provided with the information and tools they need to work with the draft curriculum in their classrooms, including:

  • teacher release days to support planning and instruction preparation.
  • learning and teaching resources.
  • professional learning opportunities; and
  • opportunities to provide feedback to Alberta Education on the draft curriculum, including how it is experienced in classrooms.

"Teachers can access comprehensive learning and teaching resources and professional learning supports aligned with draft curriculum, including subject-specific overviews, quick reference videos, illustrative examples and fact sheets online."

Fiona Gilbert, the Board Chair of Rocky View Schools expressed her appreciation for the flexibility the government is provided with regard to the piloting. 

"Rocky View Schools (RVS) appreciates that the government is providing school boards flexibility and autonomy to determine how they will participate in piloting the draft social studies curriculum. RVS values the opportunity to share feedback to improve the draft and support RVS and students across the province in receiving the world-class education they deserve."

However, the Alberta Teacher's Association (ATA) put out a statement calling on the government to pause the pilot project.

"Among teachers’ concerns are the unrealistic number of concepts to be covered, some of which are developmentally inappropriate and conceptually inaccurate, as well as failing to engage higher order thinking skills," a press release from the ATA stated.

According to ATA President Jason Schilling, while the organization welcomed the opportunity to provide feedback, the most current draft of the curriculum does not reflect the recommendations of teachers.

"What’s the rush? Over the past three years, Alberta elementary schools have piloted and implemented new curriculum across four subject areas in seven grade levels," Schilling added. "The problems currently being faced by teachers having to implement a flawed math curriculum demonstrate the risk of proceeding prematurely to implement new curriculum content and design."

The ATA added that with schools already strained with overcrowding, the launch of newer curriculum is 'overloading the system.'

"Successful planning and implementation of [the] new curriculum demands a great deal of time and energy on the part of teachers. Continuing to add more is preventing teachers from devoting the care and attention needed to ensure that Alberta students are getting the best possible instruction."

To participate in classroom piloting during the 2024-25 school year, school authorities will be asked to express their interest by May 15.

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