Education reform has seen strong public feedback: Minister Simpson

The curriculum won't be changing any time soon, says Simpson. (Supplied by Pexels.)
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The GNWT’s ongoing process of modernizing its education system is one of the biggest tasks the territorial government has undertaken, according to Education minister R.J. Simpson.

Simpson says one of the biggest priorities with the refresh is improving the education outcomes of rural and Indigenous students who often underachieve.

“One of the most significant undertakings this government has taken to date,” said Simpson, speaking in the Legislative Assembly on May 28.

Simpson says the territorial government has received around 600 public feedback responses and held a number of consultation sessions. The feedback will be compiled into a report presented before the Legislative Assembly.

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Simpson added his department is working on a 2030 Early Learning Strategy that will include steps to improve residents’ access to childcare.

Simpson highlighted Gameti, Wekweeti and Colville Lak, who have added Northern distance learning courses into their schools, with 19 schools now part of that network. 

The program allows smaller class sizes and helps combat the need to double-up on multiple classes being taught in the same classroom, due to a lack of resources in small communities.

Part of the education refresh will also involve taking a look at the territory’s curriculum. Currently, the NWT uses other province’s curriculums, much of which is based on Alberta’s curriculum.

But that may be up for change, after the Alberta provincial government announced changes to their curriculum which would, among other things, cut back on teaching about Canada’s history with residential schools.

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Back in March, Alberta’s NDP party said they had trustworthy sources who were saying the GNWT are planning to switch their curriculum to mirror BC’s curriculum.

Rachel Notley, leader of the Alberta New Democratic Party, says Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s curriculum represents the needs of education consultant Chris Champion, a former colleague of Kenney, rather than those of students and teachers.

“He’s argued to remove teaching about residential schools because it’s just too sad,” she added. “This kind of backward looking and quite frankly racist attitude to the curriculum is just not acceptable. Clearly, the Northwest Territories feels the same way.”

In February, Simpson said that a decision on curriculum changes was a long way off.

He reiterated that point in the Legislative Assembly, saying curriculum changes would only come after more assessment and public feedback. 

Simpson did not give a date for when the report on residents’ feedback would be submitted.

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