Saskatchewan’s history curriculum is under the microscope after two contrasting reports were released in December and January.
According to Historica Britannica’s Canadian History Report Card, Saskatchewan ranked 12th out of 13 provinces and territories with a grade of 69 per cent, only ahead of Alberta.
This report looks primarily at Grades 7 to 12 Canadian history classes. However it also evaluates social studies, civics, humanities, social sciences and other courses with Canadian history content. Analyzing these subjects allows a better investigation into the state of history education in Canada.
On the other hand, Saskatchewan earned the top spot in a report prepared by Kairos Canada. It was used to assess progress in achieving reconciliation through education in schools across the country.
The Kairos report looks at the provincial curriculum and how well it covers residential schools, Treaties and the historic and past and present contributions of Indigenous peoples. Each province receives a grade ranging from “Excellent” to “Significant Work Required”.
All Saskatchewan Grade 12 students must choose one of three 30-level classes. Choices include Native Studies, Social Studies, and History. Bronwyn Graves, project manager at Historica Canada, said that although Native Studies and Social Studies include valuable historical content they do not cover the same content as History 30.
The Historica Britannica report stated that the documents being used in the curriculum are outdated, adding “Overall, Saskatchewan provides a rich and wide array of courses from which students can choose. However, in order to ensure that students will learn about important 20th century Canadian content, History 30 should become mandatory.”
Jennifer Hubble, dean of the faculty of education at the University of Regina, said she disagrees that Grade 12 students should have to take History 30. She said this recommendation “is prescriptive, narrow, and privileges knowledge of history over the ability of students to make connections between the past and the present.”
Hubble added, “The Treaty Curriculum has been mandatory in Saskatchewan since 2008 and provides students with opportunities for interdisciplinary learning from kindergarten to Grade 12. It recognizes that treaties are the building blocks of Canada and must be part of our historical and contemporary understanding of this country.”
Jordan Bisson, education student at the U of R, disagreed. “I think History 30 should be mandatory because it’s an important subject. It’s not one that you can just skip. I think everyone needs to know. It won’t be detrimental to make it mandatory,” she said.
According to Stephanie Ali, director of communications for the ministry of education, any changes to the curriculum are paused while the government consults with the ministry to determine what the best approach is to meet students’ needs.
“The curriculum is designed to provide a framework for teachers. Teachers then choose the materials they use to teach the content and teachers have the flexibility to move beyond what is outlined in the curriculum. While the examples in the curriculum reflect pre-1997, the units of study also lend themselves to more current history,” she said.
Neither report evaluated how teachers taught the curriculum to students.
Elizabeth Ingram, an education student at the U of R, said, “The way that a teacher portrays it is going to make it more meaningful. They need to explain why it affects us today. I feel like I never got that when I was in history.”