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“You cannot expect a curriculum of this magnitude to be implemented the way that it’s (being) looked at, and that’s why so many mistakes have been made along the way. That’s why I want to put a pause on it.”

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UCP leadership hopeful Leela Aheer is calling for the government to postpone a K-6 curriculum that has sparked controversy and criticism for more than a year.

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In an interview with Postmedia Wednesday, the former cabinet minister and MLA for Chestermere-Strathmore said the province has rushed the rollout.

“The implementation is all off – it’s just too fast,” said Aheer.

“You cannot expect a curriculum of this magnitude to be implemented the way that it’s (being) looked at, and that’s why so many mistakes have been made along the way. That’s why I want to put a pause on it,” she said.

Since the first draft was released in March 2021, the government has collected feedback, revised some subjects and staggered their release. Three finalized subjects will be mandatory in classrooms this September, including K-3 math and English language arts, as well as K-6 physical education and wellness. All K-6 subjects are expected to be implemented province-wide in fall 2024.

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Aheer acknowledged that if she is elected leader of the party and premier Oct. 6, those new subjects will already be in classrooms and couldn’t be pulled, but she would “do everything in her power to help teachers.”

Aheer emphasized the need to regain the trust of the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA), and get the buy-in of the teachers who are going to be implementing the curriculum. She added teachers are resilient, but there are still questions about what supports and resources will be there to back them up.

The government has pledged $59 million this school year towards teacher professional learning and resources to help make sure and students are equipped for the updated subjects in classrooms.

Postmedia sent questions to all eight of the campaigns for UCP leadership asking if they support the curriculum subjects as written, and how they would approach the file if elected.

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Former children's services minister Rebecca Schulz is running to become the leader of the United Conservative Party.
Former children’s services minister Rebecca Schulz is running to become the leader of the United Conservative Party. Photo by Ian Kucerak /post media file

Fellow leadership candidate and former children’s services minister Rebecca Schulz said in a statement she hears positive feedback on subjects like math, English language arts and in financial literacy.

“However there are areas where teachers, parents and Albertans alike feel like we need to do better — I will commit to doing better and that starts with restoring Albertans’ trust in the process,” she said.

Former finance minister Travis Toews said in a statement the politicization of the curriculum renewal process isn’t in the best interests of students and has to stop.

“I fully support the broad, public and stakeholder engagement that has taken place over the past year. They’ve listened to Albertans and they’ve made changes when appropriate, the result is a strong math and English curriculum for our K-6 students,” he said, adding as premier his administration would continue making adjustments while listening to stakeholder feedback.

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Former community and social services minister Rajan Sawhney didn’t respond Wednesday, but speaking on Real Talk with Ryan Jespersen last week, said she would not completely scrap the curriculum in its current form.

“We have all heard the noise around curriculum, and that is also something that I want to take a closer look at, and make sure that all the appropriate people are at the decision-making table, and that their voices are reflected … and that includes teachers and professionals and other stakeholders,” said Sawhney, adding she wants to understand what elements are “deemed trashable” by teachers.

Amisk Mayor Bill Rock said in an email Wednesday he hasn’t heard a lot of feedback on the issue, but he plans to meet with impacted parents and teachers.

“All I can say is that they have been disappointed in the consultation,” he said.

Spokespeople from the leadership campaigns of MLA for Central-Peace Notley Todd Loewen, former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, and MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche Brian Jean did not provide responses as of press time.

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