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OPINION: The evolution of learning?

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A months-long delay of Alberta's new curriculum has led to 26 recommendations that provide some real food for thought.

After the United Conservative Party won the 2019 provincial election, they pressed pause on the new curriculum and assembled a panel to review it. The panel's report came out Wednesday.

The panel's suggestions include some doses of common sense: a recommendation to introduce new concepts at developmentally appropriate times comes alongside a suggestion to ensure First Nations, Metis and Inuit perspectives continue to be reflected in the curriculum. Meanwhile, the panel recommends booting out forms of teaching such as discovery math, rethinking how valuable cursive writing is, and bringing in standardized testing for grades 1 to 5.

The merit of some of these recommendations is clear, and if implemented could see high school students study world history, including specific events of major historical significance such as the Holocaust. Likewise, a recommendation to teach financial literacy to students should be applauded for addressing a gap in education that has persisted for decades. If education is meant to prepare youth to enter the working world and become productive members of society, it should address important life skills like basic budgeting and other financial must-haves.

Other recommendations require more thought and study. Last year, the province announced plans to bring back provincial achievement tests for Grade 3 students, but this review takes that one step further and suggests standardized tests beginning in Grade 1 in order to flag students who are falling behind early on in their education. There has been much debate in Alberta about the merits of standardized testing, but administering them to six-year-olds may do more harm than good.

A focus on employment is also an important part of this review, and could greatly benefit students. While students are currently afforded opportunities to learn outside the classroom – usually in the form of field trips – giving them the opportunity for work-integrated learning opportunities can help prepare them to enter the workforce.

There's good and bad in this review, and the impact on our curriculum has yet to be seen. While Albertans are being asked to weigh in through an online survey, which is available until Feb. 24, it is questionable as to why there were no active teachers sitting on this panel. Teachers are the ones on the front line and they know the lay of the land better than anyone else. They will be the ones implementing this curriculum and they should have had a seat on the panel.

Thanks to technology, the world is changing at a rate not yet seen in human history. Alberta Education's curriculum must continuously evolve in order to prepare our children for a future that is nearly impossible to foresee.

Editorials are the consensus view of the St. Albert Gazette editorial board.




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