Curriculum Updates - 4 Concerns
Education Critic Jason Avramenko is Guest Posting today, reviewing the Curriculum Updates announced recently by the government. Jason is a former Alberta Party candidate and in his real life he holds a Masters of Education and has been actively teaching in the Calgary region. Jason is passionate about giving students the highest quality education possible and preparing them for the future.
This week, the Curriculum Advisory Panel reported back to Education Minister Adriana LaGrange. They made 26 recommendations.
There are points that the Alberta Party supports. However, there are others that we have significant concerns with.
First, the good news. The Panel has made some very specific recommendations that should ensure adequate resources from teachers and students. For example, the specific point regarding “opportunities to learn outside the classroom” are vital in developing citizens, people capable not only in the workplace, but in their communities. Reevaluating CALM classes and a focus on enhancing life skills from kindergarten on should be celebrated. We are also happy to see that the Panel is open to examining high-performance jurisdictions worldwide; being conscious of the strengths outside our own province will only make us stronger and more competitive, but also more flexible and adaptable to a rapidly changing world.
However, there are some serious concerns.
First, it focuses heavily on ‘job skills,’ which universities have often criticized as problematic in incoming students. Jobs change faster than bureaucracy can keep up with, which is why governments should not be dictating the training and programming that is being experienced by 14 year-olds. The goal of education is to maximize each child’s potential to access any career path they choose, without government interference or preference.
Second, these recommendations seem to contradict themselves. More than a dozen times the Panel calls for the need to implement ‘best practices,’ from assessment to curriculum content and testing. However, Alberta is a leader with regards to its assessment practices, math scores, literacy, and problem-solving skills. Our students often rank among the top ten systems worldwide. We must celebrate these accomplishments. Therefore, when the Panel suggests we implement ‘best practices’, we need only look to ourselves. Like so many things, we are world class. The recommendation that teachers should test students more often and more vigorously, especially through grades 1 to 5, has been soundly rejected by Alberta teachers and most educational authors and coaches. Alberta educators are some of the best in the world, and have clearly shown that they understand how to motivate and create strong students. It is therefore disrespectful when their ideas are ignored.
The Panel suggests that assessment and reporting is for the government and parents, but not once does it mention students. The child has been left behind within this document. Any teacher will tell you that the most important stakeholder is the child. They should not be ignored.
Recommendation 25 is especially troubling. It states that the system must “Ensure the social studies curriculum reflects a balance of perspectives with respect to the importance of Alberta’s resource-rich economic base in relation to the impact on the economy, families, services, and government.” This ignores the other roles Albertans play in our society. It could easily be reworded to included “a balance of perspectives with respect to all of Alberta’s rich history, people, and industries”. Instead it implies that our oil and gas industry is the only significant resource, and it leaves out one important potential impact site: the environment. Environmentalism or conservationism are not discussed. This should be of great concern.
The new curriculum should put students and their future first. It should focus on what will help them create positive outcomes for themselves and the communities in which they live. The citizens of tomorrow need to be hard working, critical thinkers with inquisitive minds. The Panel report does not show a path to achieving this outcome. However, this is only the first step, and I am excited to be proven wrong.
Alberta Party Education Critic