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New draft K-6 social studies curriculum will be piloted in 2024-25 school year

Alberta Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides at an announcement about the new draft social studies curriculum on Thursday March 14, 2024. (Darcy Seaton/CTV News Edmonton) Alberta Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides at an announcement about the new draft social studies curriculum on Thursday March 14, 2024. (Darcy Seaton/CTV News Edmonton)

Alberta's education minister announced the new draft K-6 social studies curriculum is ready to be piloted in the coming school year.

In 2021, Alberta's draft curriculum was delayed and has been implemented in pieces over the past several school years after heavy criticism.

In September 2022, the new math and English language arts and literature curricula were introduced for kindergarten to Grade 3. The physical education and wellness curriculum was also implemented for kindergarten to Grade 6.

In September 2023, students in kindergarten to Grade 3 began learning new French first language and literature, French immersion language arts and literature, and science programming.

Schools will now have the option to pilot the new kindergarten to Grade 6 social studies curriculum for the 2024-25 school year.

"I'm confident that we are developing a social studies curriculum that meets the learning needs of all students and positions them for success," said Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides.

Criticism in 2021

The social studies curriculum was one of the subjects that faced the most criticism when it was first announced in 2021, along with fine arts and science.

"I want to be very clear that this version of the draft Social Studies curriculum is new. Last year, we returned to Albertans with a clear intention to start fresh," said Nicolaides. "The new social studies curriculum will contain five streams of learning, history, geography, economics, political science, and civics and citizenship."

"The last time the UCP tried to re-write their curriculum, it was widely rejected by Albertans as racist, age-inappropriate and a complete misrepresentation of the history of Indigenous Peoples," said Amanda Chapman, the NDP critic for education.

"That ended up being thrown out, which squandered time and public resources and ultimately failed to build a modern curriculum that all students can see themselves in and that prepared them for success in their lives."

Alberta Teachers' Association President Jason Schilling told CTV News Edmonton he's glad the province is listening to feedback.

"When the draft came out in 2021, there was a lot of criticism, and rightfully so," he said. "What we've seen from government, with this minister, is that there's a willingness to consult with teachers in the association. And we've been doing that work. Now, we still need to do a deeper analysis of this curriculum."

What's in the new curriculum?

These are some of the focuses for each grade:

  • Kindergarten - Culture, tradition and community.
  • Grade 1 - First Nations and francophone communities and economics.
  • Grade 2 - Exploring the provinces and territories of Canada and political leadership.
  • Grade 3 - Alberta's geography, natural resources and cultural diversity.
  • Grade 4 - Colonialism and confederation.
  • Grade 5 - Ancient civilisations and empires such as Mesopotamia, Persia and Rome.
  • Grade 6 - The history and principles of democracy.

"We're pleased that some of the concerns and suggestions of teachers and curriculum experts have been addressed in the new draft," said Sandra Palazzo, board chair for Edmonton Catholic Schools.

According to Nicolaides, some of the biggest changes include ancient civilisations in Grade 5 and Canadian-focused studies in Grade 2.

The government has an online feedback form available until March 29 on its website.

"I'm worried about the timelines and how that'll affect my colleagues working in schools right now," Schilling said. "They need to take any of that feedback, see how they're gonna apply it to this draft to make any changes, and then release that."

In previous surveys on the social studies curriculum, nearly 13,000 Albertans provided feedback.

The new social studies curriculum is set to be fully implemented for kindergarten to Grade 6 in September 2025.

"Our current social studies curriculum is 20 years old; the world has changed a lot," said Nicolaides.

"We need to provide updated learning and information, whether it's about residential schools or other dynamics that are happening around the world. It's important to make sure that the curriculum is refreshed and updated."

An overview of the full kindergarten to Grade 12 social studies draft curriculum was also released Thursday.

"Students need both a great curriculum to introduce concepts and juxtapose views, values and factors that make up our social, economic, historical, environmental, cultural and global worlds," said Julie Kusiek, board chair for Edmonton Public Schools.

"We look forward to reviewing the curriculum in detail and continuing to work collaboratively with the province to ensure that the new social studies curriculum reflects the needs and aspirations of our students and communities."

Previously, some of the criticism around the new curricula focused on a lack of time and resources to prepare to pilot and implement them. The Edmonton public and catholic board chairs said their divisions will need time to consult with staff to figure out the next steps to take.

"Now, amidst overcrowded and under-resourced classrooms, teachers are expected to pilot a new program in less than six months," said Chapman.

“Teachers are already facing immense pressure, and I’m deeply concerned that this rushed timeline will only exacerbate their burden unnecessarily."

The 2024 Alberta budget earmarked $34 million for curriculum implementation.

Another area of concern previously was around subjects being age appropriate for students to learn.

"We've spoken with teachers, we've spoken with curriculum development specialists and subject matter experts, professors in some of these areas," added Nicolaides.

"That's why we're providing the draft curriculum for broader feedback, so that if there are some areas where we need to tweak or move some pieces around age appropriateness that we have that ability." Top Stories

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