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Alberta unveils new elementary school curriculum with emphasis on common cache of knowledge


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Alberta’s five- and six-year-olds will learn about migration and the establishment of ancient civilizations, according to a new interim Kindergarten to Grade 6 curriculum that will be piloted in select classrooms this year. fall.

In Grade 2 Social Studies, children will learn about the origins of democracy, the Silk Road trade route, and how Islam, Judaism and Christianity helped shape the world.

They will learn about Roman kings and tyrants, the medieval social order, Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire and Magna Carta. They will also learn about the impact of the plague.

The latest draft of the Grade 3 social studies curriculum, released publicly on Monday, would allow Grade 3 students – typically ages seven and eight – to learn more about the history and governance of New France, the arrival of European explorers in North America and their contact with indigenous peoples. .

“They will learn how our history, as a place of freedom and refuge for millions of people around the world, has made Canada one of the most diverse and peacefully pluralistic countries in the world,” said Minister of Justice. ‘Education, Adriana LaGrange, at a press conference Monday. .

“In doing so, students will hopefully develop not only a deep sense of gratitude to past generations and pride in who we are today, but also a responsibility to carry that legacy forward into the future.”

Common knowledge cache

Years after claiming that the development of Alberta’s Kindergarten to Grade 12 curriculum had been distorted by the political influence of the former NDP government, the United Conservative Party government unveiled its first public draft of ” a new elementary study program in all subjects, in English and French.

Unlike the previously proposed curriculum, which was designed to teach concepts to students, the government now adopts a philosophy that there is a common store of knowledge that every child should know and that should be taught in chronological order. .

It’s an approach that curriculum experts have previously called outdated and unfounded in modern research.

Some of those experts continued to back down on Monday, saying the program as written is developmentally inappropriate for young children.

The elementary social studies program indicates that students “will develop gratitude for the sacrifices of those who have come before us, beginning with First Nations, Métis and Inuit, and a pride in a free society, prosperous, peaceful and welcoming that they have built. and that students have a responsibility to continue, ”says the recently released document.

Residential schools, treaties

Treaty education will begin in Grade 4, and residential school harms will first be addressed in Grade 5.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action compelled governments to “make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, treaties, and the historical and contemporary contributions of Indigenous peoples in Canada a requirement. compulsory education for kindergarten to grade 12 students ”.

Black settlements and contributions from early black pioneers would be introduced in 4th grade.

Other changes include the introduction of fractions in math from grade one and a greater emphasis on money, finance and economics.

English and French language arts will now have a strong emphasis on teaching reading using phonetics from Kindergarten to Grade 3.

Coding and computer learning have been added to the science curriculum.

Students will learn consent at all levels.

Former professional hockey player and sexual assault survivor and whistleblower Sheldon Kennedy said he was pushing for lessons on consent.

“The ability to say no. The ability to say yes. The ability to understand limits. This will not only keep children safe, it will save lives,” he said.

Unsuitable for development

Professor Carla Peck, a social studies expert and professor at the University of Alberta, is one of the 30 academics the government asked for comment last December.

Peck is concerned that the proposed social studies results may be developmentally inappropriate for young children.

Students and families will feel pressured to memorize dates, people, places and landmarks without understanding their meaning, she said.

Teachers will be stressed out trying to cram long lists of information into the 30 minutes allotted daily for the topic.

“The content of the program itself is so imperfect that the implementation, I think, will just fall flat,” she said. “And there will be a lot of resistance – not only from teachers, but also from families and students. Because it’s an extremely overloaded program, with lists of information, with names and places.”

As she said of previous versions, there is no evidence that the social studies curriculum is based on research on how to teach children.

As other jurisdictions adopt more modern curricula, Alberta is regressing, she said.

Professor Dwayne Donald, professor of education at the University of Alberta, says the social studies curriculum is written as a “moral success story” in Western culture. Donald said writers seem to see young children as empty containers that need to be filled, rather than curious people trying to find their place in the world.

The treaties were a “massive omission from the programs” that led to conflicts in society, he said.

“If (peace) is to happen, it will be led by children, and the classrooms are where we can fix this problem and start to see the effects,” he said. “So for this government to reject it and put age specific stipulations in it, that just seems silly.”

NDP education spokesperson Sarah Hoffman said the government’s draft agenda failed to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action by omitting references to treaties and residential schools until ‘see you later in elementary school.

She emphasized European history in social studies and said that Indigenous students deserve to be represented in their classes.

Hoffman was relieved that lessons on computers, financial literacy, and consent had been learned from previous iterations.

“It’s a realization that all of the deep concerns Albertans have raised over the past few months, the leaks we’ve seen, time and time again, were not for nothing,” Hoffman said. “They were based in black and white, and the reality of this curriculum. And this curriculum is unacceptable in its current form.”

In a live Facebook video Monday night, Prime Minister Jason Kenney said some people wanted to teach a “twisted” version of Canadian history that is too negative. He said the project takes a more balanced approach that cultivates gratitude and pride.

$ 6 million to prepare teachers

The government will spend $ 6 million this year to develop resources and prepare teachers to test the new curriculum in select elementary grades, starting in September.

The government plans to hold four virtual feedback sessions in April, as well as monthly sessions from May to February 2022.

The Alberta Teachers’ Association announced Monday that it will begin its own separate consultation process and campaign on the curriculum.

Although the ATA had representatives involved in drafting the program under the NDP, the UCP government terminated this agreement and took them out of the process.

In a press release, the ATA said it has opened an online survey for teachers and will be holding roundtables with subject matter experts over the spring.

Association President Jason Schilling reiterated his call for the government to delay implementation of the program with schools still struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic. The teachers asked how they will be trained to provide the new material and what resources they will need to use in the classrooms.

“What has been released today is hardly a plan and certainly not a plan for success,” he said.

All elementary schools are expected to use the new K-6 curriculum from September 2022.

The curriculum for grades 7-10 is under development and is expected to be ready for classroom testing by September 2022. The government wants all grades and schools to use the new curriculum by September 2022. September 2024.

The redevelopment process began a decade ago under the former Progressive Conservative government. The curriculum was previously developed one subject at a time. Some Alberta curricula date back to the 1980s.

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