NWT partners with BC for new JK-12 school curriculum


The territorial government will partner with British Columbia for its new JK-12 school curriculum, a change to be phased in over the next several years. 

Territorial education minister RJ Simpson said BC’s new curriculum “aims to personalize learning, making it more student-centred and flexible” as he explained the shift from a curriculum devised by Alberta.

“With an emphasis on Indigenous knowledge and a focus on literacy and numeracy skills, I am confident that this curriculum will benefit all of the NWT’s JK-12 students,” Simpson said.

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Shannon Barnett-Aikman, the NWT’s assistant deputy minister of education and culture, on Thursday told reporters she was “confident that this is the correct path forward.”

The NWT is too small to fund development of its own curriculum, but had been unnerved by Alberta’s recently updated curriculum, a document panned by experts and developed without territorial input.

In April, education officials presenting an update to NWT MLAs said the BC curriculum was easily the best fit for the territory across four key criteria.

Last week, the NWT government released the findings from its engagement and consultation process regarding the search for a new curriculum.

That report found BC’s curriculum to be “consistently the strongest of the five jurisdictions examined” regarding the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives. 

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“Crucially, Indigenous worldviews, knowledge, and perspectives are integrated in all of BC’s curricula in a meaningful and intentional way, and are reflected in students’ mandatory learning outcomes,” the NWT government stated in a Thursday news release. 

The territory plans to implement the new curriculum in phases, according to Barnett-Aikman. 

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Some foundational and NWT-created curricula – including Dene Kede and Inuuqatigiit, Our Northern Studies, and Hunter Education – will remain in schools. 

An adapted version of BC’s curriculum is already used by the Yukon. Asked if there was potential for future collaboration between the territories, Jessica Brace – the NWT’s director of curriculum development and student assessment – said the territorial government would “love to see that partnership happen.”

The territory says switching to a new curriculum “can be managed within the GNWT’s existing budget” and won’t mean textbooks or technology need to change, as the BC curriculum allows some flexibility.

“Teacher training and resources can be provided online, minimizing travel costs and time outside of schools and communities,” the territory said.