The Kenney government’s proposed new kindergarten to Grade 6 school curriculum is a cornerstone of United Conservative Party (UCP) plans for education in Alberta for decades to come.
A major change in the way students would learn in schools in every part of the province, the updated curriculum was released with much fanfare a month ago, with the education minister calling it a great step forward.
The government’s plan is to have stakeholders provide input before adopting the curriculum in a few months' time.
Unfortunately for the currently much-maligned Kenney government, the reaction to the proposed new education plan has been anything but universally positive. In fact, the backlash from teachers, parents, Indigenous and labour groups, opposition parties and others has been hostile and ongoing.
The Alberta Teachers Association, representing 39,000 educators, calls the proposed curriculum unacceptable, while the Alberta Retired Teachers Association says it should be rewritten.
Many school boards, including the district's Chinook's Edge School Division and Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools, will not pilot the curriculum.
Indigenous groups say the curriculum fails to portray Alberta’s true history.
“Albertans have spoken up loud and clear about this curriculum and they are giving it a failing grade,” said NDP Education critic Sarah Hoffman. “It’s a critical element of leadership to admit when you’ve made a mistake and then fix it. It’s time for Jason Kenney to pull the pilot and rewrite this curriculum.”
For his part, Premier Kenney says the new curriculum is the way of the future for Alberta education, providing a balanced approach that is lacking in the current curriculum.
“What this curriculum represents is a shift away from the failure of so-called inquiry discovery math, for example,” Kenney said. “It’s an embrace of basic knowledge and skills.”
A decision by the UCP government to push the new curriculum forward in the face of the huge opposition that has surfaced in the weeks since its release would be a mistake.
Education in Alberta must have broad support from many stakeholders — and that is certainly not something this new curriculum can claim.
Dan Singleton is an editor with The Albertan.