WATCH: Panel reviewing Alberta curriculum says schools should ‘balance’ lessons about climate change, oilsands

Alberta’s education minister endorsed a panel’s report recommending students learn all views about climate change and the value of the province’s oil and gas sector.

Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education, said she had complaints from parents about “extremist views” being taught in schools.

“I have heard very strongly from many parents their children deserve to hear an unbiased opinion,” LaGrange told reporters Jan. 29. “We would strongly recommend a teacher bring in a balanced view. Do we believe there is climate change? Absolutely. Climate change is real but we want that presented in a balanced way.”

LaGrange said there was a particular document recently shown to her and her department is exploring it in terms of children being taught that they are the final generation to deal with climate change.

One of the panel’s recommendations urges the government to “ensure the social studies curriculum reflects a balance of perspectives with respect to the importance of Alberta’s resource-rich economic base in relation to the impact on the economy, families, services and government.”

A new online survey is available until Feb. 24 for Albertans to provide input on the draft vision for student learning. 

Input received through the survey will be used to inform a new ministerial order on student learning – a document that will define the vision, values, foundations and outcomes for education in Alberta. Feedback collected on the draft vision will also help guide government work moving forward with updating the curriculum.

“As part of the curriculum review process, we committed to broadening consultation to hear a wider range of perspectives,” said LaGrange in a press release Jan. 29. “Setting a new vision for student learning is an important first step in ensuring we take the right approach in updating the provincial curriculum.”

The independent curriculum advisory panel was established in August 2019. Its 12 members have diverse experiences and perspectives that have guided them in drafting a new vision for education and providing a recommendations report on the future direction of the curriculum. 

The panel’s recommendations are centered around the themes of curriculum development, curriculum content and assessment, in addition to some recommendations specific to the draft K-4 curriculum that was publicly released in 2018.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and Curriculum Advisory Panel Member Dr. Glenn Feltham with students from St. Marguerite School in Calgary.

The panel’s full report is publicly available online. Some highlights include:

  • ensuring the curriculum remains free from the prescription of pedagogical approaches, like discovery math
  • addressing financial literacy, work readiness, wellness and goal-setting to enhance students’ life skills
  • implementing standardized assessment tools to evaluate literacy and numeracy in Grades 1 through 5
  • aligning the draft K-4 curriculum from 2018 with the new vision for student learning
  • providing students with work-integrated learning opportunities
  • ensuring First Nations, Metis and Inuit learnings continue to be reflected in our curriculum

“While there are elements of the draft K-12 curriculum that serve us well, there is room for improvement,” said Angus McBeath, chair, curriculum advisory panel.

“The curriculum advisory panel offered up recommendations to help ensure students have the foundational knowledge, skills, and competencies they will need beyond high school to live their best lives. 

Jen Panteluk, vice-chair, curriculum advisory panel said they approached their mandate with one crucial question in mind – what are the key knowledge and skills students should have when they complete high school? 

“From addressing financial literacy to ensuring the curriculum is free from the prescription of pedagogical approaches, we believe that these recommendations will help the government move forward as they work to modernize Alberta’s education system.”

The curriculum advisory panel’s report provides advice that is separate from the survey, which focuses on the draft vision for student learning. The panel’s recommendations will be considered along with Albertans’ feedback on the draft vision to inform the next steps in updating the curriculum.