Unreached and Unreasonable: Curriculum Standards and Children's Understanding of Ethnic Diversity in Canada

Jan. 20, 2008

Source: Curriculum Inquiry, Volume 38 Issue 1,  Page 63-92, January 2008.

In recent years, Canadian schools have developed new policies and practices in their approaches to both diversity policy and curriculum development. Public schools once intended to homogenize a diverse population have been transformed to institutions designed to foster tolerance and respect for diversity. Curricula previously organized around subject content are now framed as standards for student achievement.

This article traces the development of contemporary curriculum standards with regard to diversity and examines those standards in the context of a study of grade 7 students' understanding of diversity in New Brunswick. It presents evidence to suggest students are falling far short of expectations outlined in standards documents.

While the sparse and fragmentary nature of student understanding should be of concern, this article also identifies key areas of concern about the development and implementation of the standards themselves. We argue that expecting teachers to teach toward, and students to attain, the standards might be unreasonable in light of these concerns.

Updated: Mar. 02, 2008