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Expert calls Alberta’s latest social studies curriculum draft ‘Eurocentric’

The province of Alberta is making its third attempt at replacing the 20-year-old social studies curriculum currently being taught in elementary schools.

Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides released his government’s draft social studies curriculum on Thursday.

It comes after the NDP government’s 2018 version and the UCP’s 2021 attempt were both criticized and rejected.

Nicolaides said Thursday his government spent seven months doing consultations, including meeting with more than 300 teachers, Indigenous communities and other experts.

More than 12,800 surveys were filled out in the fall of 2023 by members of the public wanting to have a say on a new document.

Despite all of that, University of Alberta professor Carla Peck believes the draft still misses the mark.

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“Third time is not the charm,” Peck told Global News.

“It’s really disappointing.”

Some of the biggest changes would see Grade 5 students learn about ancient civilizations including China, Greece and Rome.

Students would learn about Alberta’s geography, natural resources and First Nations in Grade 3 instead of Grade 4. In Grade 2, they would learn about Canada, including taxes and the Supreme Court.

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“I just don’t think developmentally, kids who are seven years old are ready yet to be learning about those complex, sophisticated ideas,” said Peck, who researches elementary school social studies.

Click to play video: 'Proposed new Alberta social studies curriculum called ‘embarrassing’ and ‘ideological’'

Proposed new Alberta social studies curriculum called ‘embarrassing’ and ‘ideological’

Previous criticism of the 2021 draft included that it was too focused on students memorizing information rather than understanding it.

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Peck is concerned that is still the case, and that students will simply be asked to regurgitate textbook information rather than absorb it.

In Grade 4, students would learn about colonialism and the benefits to European countries and colonists. There is no mention of the impact on Indigenous communities.

“I would characterize this curriculum document once again, as we saw in 2021, as very white, very Eurocentric,” said Peck.

Students would learn about residential schools in Grade 9.

Albertans are only being given two weeks to view and give feedback on the document. Public engagement will close on March 29.

School boards could then opt in to pilot the curriculum starting this September.

Chairs of both the Edmonton public and Edmonton Catholic school boards were present at the provincial announcement Thursday but both said they did not have sufficient time to actually review the document.

“With this announcement today and this additional engagement, we’re just going to need a bit more time to circle back within the division,” Edmonton Public School Board chair Julie Kusiek said when asked about the timeline.

“Our division, like Edmonton public will continue to support our teachers with our curriculum, experts,” said Edmonton Catholic chair Sandra Palazzo.

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The education minister said students can’t wait much longer for the curriculum to be in place even if the school boards decide they need more time.

“If we keep pushing some of the piloting or other pieces back, it just keeps pushing those dates back,” Nicolaides said.

“And I want to be sensitive to that, but I’m also sensitive to the fact that our social studies curriculum is 20 years old.”

The province wants the new social studies curriculum for elementary students fully implemented by September 2025.

A draft plan for Grade 7 to 12 students was also released but the detailed draft for older students is still in the works.

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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