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Academics concerned over Alberta's K-6 social studies draft curriculum


Educators who were consulted on the Alberta government's draft K-6 social studies curriculum have penned an open letter expressing "significant concerns" and disappointment that their feedback was "largely ignored."

The letter is from post-secondary academics and researchers who were part of the Curriculum Development Specialist Group. They were invited by Alberta Education to give their expertise after the initial curriculum was delayed in 2021 following heavy criticism.

"We urge the government to immediately convene a meeting of the key education partners to develop a protocol to restart the curriculum rewriting process," reads the letter.

David Scott, an associate professor and chair of learning at the Werklund School of Education, is part of the group.

He says the curriculum is an improvement from 2021, but still lacks an overall coherent framework or vision for social studies.

"Alberta is a world-leading jurisdiction of education, that has a long history of being one of the top performing jurisdictions in education, and as a parent myself of two kids, I'm deeply concerned that we're going to lose that status with this kind of curriculum," he said.

"I'd really encourage parents and concerned citizens to get involved in this debate and make their voices heard."

The letter outlines several areas the group believes the draft fails students, including a lack of definitions of key social studies concepts such as critical thinking, citizenship, historical thinking, inquiry and multiple perspectives.

Scott says the proposed curriculum also lacks learning and hearing perspectives of different identities and cultures, including First Nation and Metis Peoples in Alberta.

"There's not really an opportunity to learn about the world views and perspectives, and understand different ways of being in the world, including that of francophone and Indigenous people," he said.

"I think we were quite critical of the conflation between teaching about when Indigenous people were involved in events of the past, versus exposing students to their unique worldviews and perspectives."

Scott says that meaningful discussions and feedback were given during consultations, but are not reflected in the draft curriculum.

"I think it's 100 per cent political influence, there's no question in my mind," he said.

"We never were able to meet with the minister, so we don't know what was going on behind the scenes politically."

Alberta Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides refutes that claim, and says feedback on the draft curriculum will be taken into consideration for any modifications before it is rolled out.

"I don't think there's anything in the draft that is politically motivated," he said.

"The important thing here is that we develop a curriculum that teaches students a strong foundation of history, helps them foster the skills that are necessary to be active citizens, to help them to be strong critical thinkers, active and engaged citizens, so that they can be very effective in the world when they complete their studies.

"The recommendations were taken to heart, and a number of revisions were made to very early drafts, even before any content was put in place about the scope and sequence, what should be taught and at what grade.

"A lot of recommendations and guidance that they provided was indeed incorporated."

The government is collecting feedback until March 29. 

Nicolaides says the plan is to pilot the new curriculum in schools in September with mandatory implementation starting in September of 2025.

This is the third proposed replacement of Alberta's social studies curriculum for elementary schools. In addition to the version criticized in 2021 under the UCP government, a 2018 proposal under the NDP was also unsuccessful.

The Calgary Board of Education, which previously chose not to test-drive the previous curriculum in 2021, says it has not determined if it will pilot the recent draft. The CBE says it is waiting for more information on the pilot process from Alberta Education. Top Stories

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