Alberta Education Curriculum Survey: What To Consider

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Minister Eggen has released an education survey seeking input from the Alberta electorate on the six-year revamp of Alberta curriculum.

The survey closes in one month, on November 18, 2016. REVIEW THIS SURVEY HERE.

Unfortunately, Part A of the Education Survey has eleven questions that are phrased very poorly and offer no concrete understanding of the deeper intention of the words used (‘inclusive’ for example).

After watching the Alberta Government pass Bill 10 into law, which strips school autonomy and excludes any mention of parental notification and consent as relating to the care of their children in school, and after Minister Eggen released the ‘Guidelines for Best Practices’ which have resulted in the circumvention of parents in the care of at-risk youth in many school board policies across Alberta, it is very clear that the present government’s idea of “inclusion” is very different from the way many citizens across Alberta would define it.

This survey is full of leading questions with ambiguous terms that will be of little value to actual curriculum development and appears to be fishing for marketing statistics to "sell" the new curriculum rewrite.  

This one month survey - for a six-year revamp - is a disingenuous survey and PCE questions what meaningful impact it will have on the final draft of Alberta Curriculum.

At worst, the government of Alberta may use your responses to skew the percentage of citizens in support of legislation and accommodations in schools parents would actually oppose, if given a full opportunity to consult on actual curricula rewrites.

All this being said, it is important that Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) and every supporter that is the grassroots of our organization take the time to respond to this survey. We ask all supporters of PCE to complete Part A of this survey at a minimum. Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) offers a breakdown of Part A of this survey to assist our membership in their understanding of issues in education in Alberta at present. Feel free to use any of the information provided to respond cautiously to these questions and in comments you provide at the end.

Each question provides the following options for response:

    • STRONGLY AGREE
    • AGREE
    • DISAGREE
    • STRONGLY AGREE
    • DO NOT KNOW

 

Question #1:

Kindergarten to grade 12 curriculum should open up pathways to careers, the world of work, and post-secondary opportunities, which helps build a positive future for Alberta and prepares students for a more diversified economy.

Every citizen would agree that this is the goal of education. The question one must ask is what does ‘diversified’ mean? For example, the Minister has already stated that ‘climate change’ will be a focus in the curriculum revamp. PCE is concerned the curriculum could offer outcomes doctored to focus on climate change further, expanding on alternative energy production and economic diversification and ideas like carbon taxation in subjects like economics, social and the sciences. When content is added, other content and outcomes must be sidelined. Is this new ‘focus’ going to be at the expense of time spent learning core educational outcomes essential to a foundational understanding of Canadian history, economics, and the sciences?

Question #2:

Kindergarten to grade 12 curriculum, in all subjects and in all grades, should enable learning opportunities that are equitable, inclusive and accessible for all Alberta students.

Every citizen believes that all subjects and grades should offer learning opportunities that are "equitable, inclusive and accessible", but the question is what is meant by ‘equitable’ and ‘inclusive’? Minister Eggen has already stated that gender studies will be a focus in the education revamp. Gender studies are already being integrated across the curriculum, severed from sex ed, in many schools across Alberta, using the word “inclusive” to bring sensitive subjects to students in the classroom without parental consent (for example, see Informed Albertans article, "BEWARE THE TROJAN HORSE ADVANCING INTO ALBERTA SCHOOLS"). Many parents in Alberta want to have the right to opt-in to any such discussion where children are introduced to sensitive gender and sexuality related topics. It is fair to disagree with this statement or respond “do not know” until parents are given a more concrete understanding of what is intended.

Question #3:

Kindergarten to grade 12 curriculum should reflect the diversity of Alberta’s population.

No child should feel excluded in the classroom. When a child feels isolated then, in that instance, it is important to ensure that a conversation takes place that allows this child to be fully integrated in the classroom. The question one needs to ask is what is meant by ‘diversity’. Will all children be welcome and considered in school: those with special needs, Christians, Jewish, Muslim, and LGBTQ youth? Or will there be a focus on introducing just one group’s experience and culture to the classroom, while excluding all others? Is it not enough to teach children to respect one another, and to honor differences? Is the government intending on introducing some cultural norms, while ignoring that there are other norms represented by children in these classrooms? It is fair to disagree with this statement or respond “do not know” until parents are given a more concrete understanding of what is intended.

Question #4:

Kindergarten to grade 12 curriculum should provide opportunities for students to learn about ways of knowing and diverse perspectives in historical and contemporary contexts of the First Nation, Metis, and Inuit.

If unique schools want focus on First Nation, Metis and Inuit perspectives then they should have the freedom to do so. Parents can seek out these schools. This aspect of Canadian history has a place in a strong Canadian history program which should not be minimized, nor should it be focused on unduly.

Question #5:

Kindergarten to grade 12 curriculum should include and respect the unique perspectives and experiences of Francophones living in Alberta, Canada and the world.

For the same reasons stated in question #4. If unique schools want to focus heavily on the Francophone experience – this is true of any other language based school, of which there are a variety in the province of Alberta – then they should have the autonomy to do so. Parents can seek out these schools. This aspect of Canadian history has a place in a strong Canadian history program which should not be minimized, nor should it be focused on unduly.

Question #6:

Through learning outcomes, curriculum should support the development of literacy, numeracy and 21st century competencies.

PCE is very uncomfortable with the term ‘ 21st century competencies’ as this is a loaded term that is a front for critical thinking and problem solving (Discovery) focused teaching methods that have failed Alberta students in mathematics, and will do so in all other subjects if expanded. While there is a place for exploration in the classroom, this ‘discovery’ should not overwhelm the curriculum outcomes in such a way that time spent in exploration and discovery activities sideline essential instruction on core education outcomes. Teachers must have the time to instruct students on essential education skills that are the foundation of critical thinking and problem solving. Alberta student math competency has deteriorated for over a decade as a result of too much focus on critical thinking and problem solving, and not enough foundational skill instruction and retention.

Learn more about PCE'S POSITION ON DISCOVERY MATH and INSPIRING EDUCATION.

Secondly, the ‘21st century competencies’ focus on cultural and global citizenship which sounds beneficial, however again the question must be asked as to what cultural and global citizenship looks like? How is this taught? From whose perspective and world view? It is our opinion that it is families who are responsible for teaching children their responsibilities to the world.

Question #7:

Students should have opportunities to learn about and practice the values of integrity and respect.

Again, few would disagree with this statement, but whose values of ‘integrity and respect’? Is it not enough to expect good manners and prevent bullying in schools and leave the deeper inculcation of the values of integrity and respect to families and communities? See question #2.

Question #8:

Students should appreciate excellence, value perseverance and develop positive attitudes towards lifelong learning and well-being.

A return to standardized testing and concise report cards that give letter grades from K-6 and percentage grades and class averages in grades 7-12 are essential if students are to learn what excellence looks and feels like. To value perseverance in reaching for excellence and to garner a positive attitude when effort is made children must understand what excellence is.
Read PCE's Statement on WHAT THE NEW ALBERTA CURRICULUM MUST ENTAIL.

Question #9:

Students should learn to set goals, make responsible choices, and be accountable for their decisions.

Similar to #8, responsible choices and accountability are values that families model, in a way that fits the value systems and faith or non-faith perspectives in their homes. This is not the role of schools or governments. It is the role of schools to teach essential basic education skills. There can be an insistence on manners and respect, but the development of a child into a responsible adult is formed in their communities and homes, with schools as partners not central sources. PCE and many members of our grassroots do not feel that Minister Eggen has been accountable to his electorate for the goals he has set and met since becoming Education Minister, starting with the release of the 'Guidelines for Best Practises' which have new school policies bypassing parents when children are at-risk in many schools in this province. We believe that was not a very responsible choice for children at all!

Question #10:

Students’ imagination and sense of curiosity should develop as they learn to think logically, creatively, and critically about topics.

This goes back to ‘ 21st Century Learning’ which is a catastrophe in schools. Math proficiency has been weakened drastically by this creative (discovery) based methodology in mathematics over the past decade. Dr.Nhung Tran-Davies and many mathematics experts have tried to tell Alberta Education they need to make urgent changes. But to no avail. In fact, Alberta Education has told Dr.Nhung Tran-Davies they will no longer discuss math with her; ignoring the experts and the 20,000+ signatures from concerned citizens on the Back to Basics petition! We need less of this methodology in schools, not more. It is time to bring balance back to Alberta education by returning to the basics and ensuring they are taught well, not expanding this failed ‘discovery’ pedagogy to other subjects.

Learn more about PCE'S POSITION ON DISCOVERY MATH and INSPIRING EDUCATION.

Question #11:

Curriculum should be reviewed and updated within a minimum of four years to keep up with research, changing information and skills that children and youth need to be successful in life.

We agree ongoing curriculum review is important. However, this is very costly. As long as skills are being met in international standardized tests and our students are proficient, these reviews are not necessary. If our students begin failing – as they have been in mathematics – according to international standardized assessments next to students of their own age, then review and course direction should be done immediately. Students don’t have four years of a twelve-year education to waste on failed curricula and methodologies. In fact, corrections in mathematics cannot wait another six years for this revamp to be complete.

 

Please share any additional comments you may have about the proposed direction for new curriculum (For example, Is there anything you feel is missing from the directions above?).

In the comment box, please be sure not to include any personal information that could potentially identify you or someone else.

Use your own words and focus on your own concerns, but please make note of the concerns we have broken down for you above. We would appreciate it if PCE’s membership includes mention of points 1-6 on the ‘Parental Consent is Key’ open letter demands found HERE

Here is what Donna Trimble, Executive Director for Parents for Choice in Education wrote under 250 words-the limit:

“Students should be taught basic manners and be polite and respectful in school, but it is not a school's job to teach 'cultural and global citizenship' (21st century learning). That is the role of families.

It is the school's responsibility to teach a baseline grouping of education outcomes that allow students to compete on the world stage after graduation. These should be backward designed and actual employers, post secondary professors and experts in a variety of fields should be discerning these outcomes, not Alberta Education or the ATA. Teach history, basic economics, reading, writing, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects well!

As for equitable, inclusive and accessible education, everyone agrees this is VERY important. This means every single child needs to have equal access to funding that follows the child to a setting of their parent's choice that best meets the child's needs and 'respects' the culture of the student and the student's family.

Schools should be varied so there are schools that meet the needs of particular students i including LGBTQ youth, children from faith-based families, children interested in the arts or sport, and every other child. Children do not come one-size-fits all and schools shouldn't either. Most importantly, parents MUST be the legal first point of contact for their children in every school as relates to "a child’s education, care and well-being, during both instructional and non-instructional time." Implement the BEST PRACTICES stated by PCE in the 'Parental Consent is Key' campaign-parentchoice.ca”

Please take the time to respond to Alberta Education’s curriculum survey.

We also encourage you to join PCE’s current campaign to insist that all legislation and policies impacting the education of children in the province will uphold the authority of parents as the primary caregivers and educators of their children. Parental involvement and authority must be respected at every level – from procedures at local schools, to school board policies and administrative regulations, as well as provincial legislation.


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