By Jacob Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
EDMONTON – Ninety-five percent – or fifty-eight of the sixty-one school divisions across Alberta — have announced that they will not pilot the UCP’s draft of the K-6 curriculum this September.
Criticism of the curriculum has come from the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA), educational experts, deans of education, teachers, and over 40,000 Albertans who are a part of Albertans Against the Curriculum Facebook group.
A survey was conducted by the Alberta Teachers Association and it was revealed that less than one-in-five Albertans support the UCP’s draft of the K-6 curriculum.
Sixty percent of Albertans disapprove of the draft, including 38 percent who strongly disapprove of the Government’s handling of the curriculum.
Only 38 percent of people have said they approve of the curriculum — this marks the lowest approval rating tracked by Environics Research for the ATA in the last decade.
The UCP government has emphasized that there were over 100 teachers involved in the creation of the draft. However, ATA president Jason Schilling is suspicious of these claims because the government has not released an unfiltered report on the consultations.
“Albertans are saying to us that the curriculum is poorly done, and it is inappropriate for students. They also recognize that the problem was largely created because teachers were left out of the planning,” said Schilling.
Since the survey, the ATA has released a statement saying that, “The Government of Alberta needs to work alongside First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Elders and Knowledge Keepers, communities and organizations, to ensure that the curriculum is rebalanced to authentically include Indigenous ways of knowing, and Indigenous perspectives, experiences and stories in order to advance truth and reconciliation.”
In 2014, Alberta made a commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada to include Indigenous knowledge in order to advance reconciliation.
On May 20, the Athabasca Tribal Council (ATC) demanded that the Government of Alberta cancel the draft because it ignores the history, culture and perspectives of Indigenous in the province.
Chief Allan Adam has said that Indigenous communities should be consulted on the draft, such as the Treaty 6, 7, and 8 Educators alliance. He also accused the UCP of erasing suggestions from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in K-2 and erasing information on treaties.
“This curriculum is blatantly meant to sustain and bolster systemic racism in the next generation,” said Adam. “The manner that the curriculum was developed and presented is disrespectful to all Albertans. This curriculum does not fulfill the commitments to truth and reconciliation and must be rescinded.”
The claims from Chief Adam caused Education Minister Adriana LaGrange to schedule a meeting with the Chief.
LaGrange’s spokesperson, Nicole Sparrow said, “Given the severity of these accusations it is disappointing that the chief did not raise these concerns with the minister directly.”
“In order to gather feedback directly from Chief Adam and the Athabasca Tribal Council, Minister LaGrange personally invited the chief to a subsequent meeting to discus the draft curriculum.”
The Chief’s sentiment however, is echoed by other divisions in Alberta. The Northland School Division (NSD) — which includes schools in Janvier, Fort McKay, Anzac, Conklin, and Fort Chipewyan — said that they rejected the curriculum because “the Indigenous perspectives and experiences that were included in the previous curriculum seem to be omitted.”
The entirety of the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo schools divisions have also rejected the draft, as well as the Metis Nation of Alberta and the Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations.
And it is not just rural areas and Indigenous Nations who are against the draft as the Calgary School Board of Education (CBE) has announced that they will not take part in the pilot program either. Edmonton Public Schools and Edmonton Catholic Schools will also not take part in the draft.
Calgary will however, provide feedback to the government. “As the largest public school board in Alberta, we believe it is vitally important to provide Alberta Education with feedback on the draft curriculum,” the CBE said in a release on Friday.
“In the fall, we will gather meaningful feedback through focus groups with classroom teachers and curriculum specialists. Staff, parents/guardians and community members are encouraged to continue providing feedback.”
Despite all of the controversy and public outcry, the UCP government is still resolved to pilot the draft in the upcoming Fall semester.
The draft is expected to be fully implemented for all K-6 schools in the 2022-2023 school year.
Visit alberta.ca/currriculum to view the draft. Albertans can review the document and offer feedback on the curriculum until spring 2022.
Jacob Cardinal is an LJI reporter for Alberta Native News.