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Francophone education representatives speak out against draft curriculum

Francophone education representatives are among the many groups that have come forward, speaking out against the draft K-6 curriculum released by the Government of Alberta March 29.

LAKELAND - Francophone education representatives are now among the many groups that continue to speak out against the draft K-6 curriculum released by the Government of Alberta in late March.

Speaking on behalf of the local Francophone school division, Conseil scolaire Centre-Est (CSCE), and also as the chair of the Fédération des conseil scolaires francophone de l'Alberta (FCSFA), Réginald Roy says there are many flaws in the draft curriculum, and he's heard lots of feedback on the draft.

When asked what specifically stood out to Roy, he says simply, "Too many to even list.” But more than the specific details, Roy is unhappy with the fact that the UCP government didn't engage the Francophone community - or teachers in general - in the process.

“We’ve asked to be part of it. . .  We wanted to have a say," says Roy. And from the Francophone perspective, “We’re not happy with what has been put in there.” 

Roy describes portions of the draft curriculum, specifically the Social Studies component, as being "a translation of historical events," with little focus on recent history. He questions how Francophone culture fits into Alberta history, according to the curriculum. Further, he points to the fact that the Francophone community in Alberta has changed drastically over recent years, with many French-speaking immigrants coming to Canada from across the globe.

Roy says the Francophone community is not just the old Francophone of the past, but “It’s a new community.” And that notion needs to be validated and supported.

He also points to Section 23 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, where minority language education rights are protected.

The Francophone school divisions have certain angles they can take if concerns aren't being heard, such as legal action, and Roy says he doesn't see the Francophone community dropping its concerns anytime soon.

“I’m hearing some pretty passionate pleas.”

Roy concedes that the draft curriculum is a lengthy document, and he's waiting for "the experts" to weigh in, referring to teachers and superintendents specifically. While there were a couple of consultations held between teachers and the province, Roy says it was not near enough, especially given the current pandemic situation.

He says the draft curriculum is not all bad though, and while there are some good things, "we really have to weigh the benefits." He also questions if an entirely new curriculum is needed, or if the current curriculum simply requires some tweaks and additions.

"I really don't know," he admits.

A number of school divisions in the province have said they will not pilot the draft curriculum. This is a topic that Roy feels divided on. 

“Do we pilot? Do we not pilot? That’s a good question.” He says it's important to be part of the process, and piloting allows for feedback to be gathered, but he wonders if piloting the curriculum then means that it's simply being accepted.

Roy says the school division is encouraging parents to take part in the surveys that exist around the draft curriculum, and offer their feedback.

“I think parents are really going to need to dive into what this looks like . . . and get vocal about it.” 

On April 8, a number of Francophone organizations, including the FCSFA, sent a letter to Minister of Education Adriane LaGrange, voicing their concerns.

"It should be noted that there is an important distinction to be made between the general curriculum and the curriculum for Francophone schools," reads the letter. "With respect to the general curriculum, concerns were raised about the lack of inclusion of Francophone perspectives, which should not be limited to perspectives of the past and of Eastern Canada. They should also reflect the current perspectives of Alberta’s Francophonie including learning about the diversity within Francophone communities across the province."

The letter states the Francophone curriculum should not be a direct translation of the general curriculum, but rather it should have been developed in tandem with the general curriculum. 

The letter asks the provincial government to reinstate the French Eduction Branch, which was abolished in the fall of 2017, in order to rework the curriculum in collaboration with the appropriate authorities and experts, in a timely fashion.

"We also want to remind the Government of Alberta that Francophone education in Alberta is a right enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada," states the letter, adding, "We will seek legal advice on the issue of the curriculum so that the Francophone community can consider the possibility of writing its own curriculum for Francophone schools, if the Government of Alberta does not propose a revised version that meets the needs and aspirations of the community."

Included in the letter were signatures from the ACFA (Association canadienne-francaise de l'Alberta), Fédération des parents francophones de l'Alberta, Société historique francophone de l'Alberta, and Roy on behalf of the FCSFA.

Teachers not impressed

On April 8, the province's official opposition released information stating a survey by the Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA) shows an overwhelming majority of elementary school teachers and principals are opposed to the draft curriculum.

“The Kenney curriculum is a mess. It’s unacceptable,” said NDP Critic for Education Sarah Hoffman. “This survey shows that teachers feel this UCP curriculum is both age and developmentally inappropriate for Alberta students. We know that teachers were not properly involved in the development of this draft, and the UCP pushed the consultations through under the cover of the pandemic.”

Early results from the survey show that 91 per cent of responding teachers are not happy with the draft curriculum, and 95 per cent of responding principals are not comfortable supporting the curriculum in their community. 

“School boards, Indigenous groups, and Francophone groups have all condemned this curriculum. Now the people who would be tasked with actually teaching it in classrooms have overwhelmingly rejected it. Jason Kenney and Adriana LaGrange must withdraw it,” said Hoffman.

Over 3,500 teachers, including school and central office leaders, completed the survey between March 29 and April 7, 2021. 

The ATA offered its own update regarding the draft curriculum on April 8, saying there are "fatal flaws" in the document, and reporting similar results from the survey.

“We wanted to give teachers time to review the documents and provide their feedback to us since the government failed to engage teachers in the curriculum process. But the preliminary data is overwhelming: this draft curriculum is fatally flawed," said Jason Schilling, ATA president.

“Teachers are the experts. Teachers know what will work in a classroom and what will not, and they are overwhelmingly telling us that this curriculum won’t work for Alberta’s elementary students.”

The feedback from the survey shows that teachers believe the new curriculum is both age and developmentally inappropriate.

Métis Nation

The Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) has also called on the Government of Alberta to redraft its proposed K-6 curriculum, expressing concerns about the Euro-American colonial undertones that exist in the draft.

“For there to be true inclusivity in the curriculum, representation from many voices must exist at every level of the curriculum-making process and that includes Métis voices,” said Audrey Poitras, president with the MNA. “Our citizens were shocked, and we are disheartened, to see our input and collaboration reduced to nothing more than a side-note in the draft that was presented to the public. The tone of the curriculum carries a Eurocentric-American point of view that effectively eliminates the voice and history of the Métis Peoples in Alberta.”

Janice Huser

About the Author: Janice Huser

Janice Huser has been with the St. Paul Journal since 2006. She is a graduate of the SAIT print media journalism program, is originally from St. Paul and has a passion for photography.
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