Someone very recently stated that Alberta needs a curriculum that “is focused on essential knowledge and skills, not political agendas and failed teaching fads.” The political football that is Alberta’s competency focused curricular rewrite has been snapped yet again. So, before someone would have us punt … let’s consider a few possible plays.
Defined by Alberta Education as the “combinations of attitudes, skills and knowledge that students develop and apply for successful learning, living and working,” a competency will “help students draw and build upon what they know, how they think, and what they can do.”
Initiated via Ministerial Order in 2013, the Conservative government of the day presented a set of learner competencies to be used in classrooms across the province. Initially framed with a focus on engaged thinkers, ethical citizenship and entrepreneurial spirit, the learner competencies were modified slightly in 2016 by the NDP. Check it out. They are not dissimilar.
What are the learner competencies that are inherent to the curriculum rewrite underway in Alberta, you ask? Here is the list: Critical thinking, communication, problem solving, collaboration, managing information, cultural and global citizenship, creativity and innovation, and personal growth and well-being.
The “new” curriculum places a strong focus upon the following: a student’s conceptual and procedural knowledge, a focus on literacy and numeracy progressions, indigenous ways of knowing, and French language and culture. A shift to conceptual-based curriculum seeks to focus on what a student knows, understands and can do. It seeks to build foundational knowledge that can be deepened and transferred to new contexts and challenges. The new curriculum seeks to prepare students for their future … not our past.
Someone indicated that there is a political slant to the new curriculum. Somehow the notion that hundreds of teachers, consultants, professors, business and community members who worked on the rewrite, and the thousands of other stakeholders (including parents) who were consulted in the process equates to an “ideological rewrite.” Hardly the stuff of brainwashing and proselytizing. Yet, someone would have us redo it all.
Someone further claimed that “competition produces better outcomes for students and respects diversity which is an Alberta value” … but clearly not a value when speaking about a diverse group of educational professionals who just so happen to have worked on a well researched curriculum rewrite. And that is the rub … research. Research is what produces better learning outcomes … not competition and certainly not nostalgia.
I would respectfully suggest that someone do a little more homework on the curriculum rewrite. Our new curriculum proposes to create engaged global citizens who are critical thinkers that can see through such woeful political tales full of sound and fury. Someone might want to reflect deeply and honestly on this.
Why not model the very competencies we wish to instil in our children?
Tim Cusack is an educator, writer, and member of the naval reserve.