JK-12 Curriculum Renewal
It’s an exciting time in Northwest Territories (NWT) schools! The Department of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) is pleased to begin the transition to a new curriculum adapted to the NWT.
We’re partnering with the British Columbia Ministry of Education to start using that province’s curriculum in our schools – however, every subject will be reviewed and, if necessary, adapted to ensure they’re relevant to NWT communities, people, cultures, languages and history. Why are we partnering with BC?
- BC is one of the top performers in education among all the provinces, according to the Conference Board of Canada.
- BC’s curriculum is modernized to meet the needs of students in a world that’s always changing! It incorporates financial literacy skills, begins providing career education in the early grades, and teaches students the ability to design, make, acquire, and apply skills and technologies that are important in the world today and key for the future.
- The BC curriculum is one of the first in Canada to focus on competency-driven learning that builds on students’ natural curiosity and creativity. It’s based on research and best practices in education, and most educators agree this is essential for 21st-century learning.
- Indigenous worldviews, knowledge, and perspectives are reflected in all BC’s curricula and in mandatory learning for all students.
- Research shows that this new curriculum design and structure has better academic results for students.
- BC has confirmed that their graduates are competitive at the post-secondary level in universities and colleges across the country and internationally.
BC’s education system is well regarded as a high-performing system. This all results in students being more prepared for life after high school!
To effectively implement the new curriculum in NWT schools, ECE is working on five key areas:
1. Finalizing the timeline and sequence for adapting the curriculum and implementing it in NWT schools. Completed
2. Determining the minimum Grade 12 graduation requirements for students using BC courses. Completed
3. Developing a schedule and structure for training teachers on the new curriculum. Completed
4. Adapting BC’s curriculum so it meets the contextual needs of NWT students and communities. Drafts for Grades 4-6, and 9 online
5. Updating student assessment programs (i.e., standardized tests and exams) with BC’s large-scale assessment tools. In progress
Key education partners and stakeholders, such as Indigenous governments, the NWT Teachers' Association (NWTTA), education bodies and educators, will be invited to provide input on the five key action areas of implementation. Teachers from each education body, as well as interested subject matter experts from the NWTTA, will assist ECE in adapting BC’s curriculum. ECE will continue to update this web page as progress on these key areas continues.
Throughout public and stakeholder engagement on curriculum renewal, ECE heard that it should not rush the transition and implementation of the new curriculum. As such, the finalized timeline will see a gradual transition.
BC’s curriculum will be implemented in the NWT by multi-grade divisions (JK/K, Grades 1-3; 4-6; 7-8; 9*; 10-12).
*Schools where Grade 9 is more closely aligned with Junior High School can choose for those students to be included in a 7-9 grouping; if Grade 9 is more closely tied to Senior High School, schools can opt for the multi-grade division of 9-12.
As this is a significant change for schools and teachers, education body staff, educators and the NWTTA requested that teachers have the opportunity to ‘trial’ the curriculum before full implementation to ensure they’re not overwhelmed with the transition.
This approach is also consistent with how BC introduced their new curriculum and is typical for other jurisdictions as well.
In the 2022-23 school year:
- It will be the final year that NWT students take the Alberta Achievement Tests (AATs), as the territory phases out Alberta’s curriculum and large-scale assessment tools, and phases in BC’s.
In the 2023-24 school year:
- Grades 4-6 will trial the draft BC curriculum.
- Grade 9 students in Grade 9-12 cohort will trial draft curriculum.
- It will be the final year for the current Locally Developed Courses 5-credit system to align with BC’s high school credit system (overall course hours will be minimally impacted).
- ECE will begin phasing in the BC assessment tools beginning with the Grade 4 FSA and Grade 10 Literacy and Numeracy graduation assessments in 2024-2025.
In the 2024-25 school year:
- Grades 4-6 will implement the draft BC curriculum in all subjects.
- Grade 9 (in 9-12 cohort) will implement final curriculum.
- Grades 7-9 cohort will trial draft curriculum.
- Grade 10 will implement draft curriculum. This will be first class to fall under the new graduation requirements.
- Locally Developed Courses will be renewed on a 4-credit system.
- BC’s assessment tools in Grade 4 Foundational Skills Assessment (FSA) and Grade 10 Literacy and Numeracy will be implemented.
In the 2025-26 school year:
- JK/K will trial draft curriculum.
- Grades 1-3 will trial draft curriculum.
- Grades 4-6 will implement finalized curriculum in all subjects.
- Grades 7-9 will implement draft curriculum in all subjects.
- Grade 10 will implement final curriculum.
- Grade 11 will implement draft curriculum.
- Schools will have the option to implement the Grade 7 FSA examination.
- This will be the last year of the Alberta Grade 12 Diploma Exams.
In the 2026-27 school year:
- JK/K will implement the draft curriculum.
- Grades 1-3 will implement the draft curriculum in all subjects.
- Grades 7-9 will implement the finalized curriculum in all subjects.
- Grade 11 will implement the final curriculum.
- Grade 12 will implement the draft curriculum.
- Grade 7 FSA and Grade 12 Literacy examinations will be implemented.
In the 2027-28 school year (final year):
- JK/K will implement the finalized curriculum.
- Grades 1-3 will implement the finalized curriculum in all subjects.
- Grade 12 will implement the final curriculum.
- All BC assessment tools (exams, standardized testing) will be in place.
As the NWT works toward transitioning to British Columbia’s curriculum, the new graduation requirements will be quite similar to BC’s, as most jurisdictions across Canada have similar requirements to earn a high school diploma.
The NWT’s graduation requirements will have some small but deliberate differences, such as the inclusion of made-in-the-NWT courses like Northern Studies. The NWT will be moving from a 5-credit to 4-credit system and the new requirements will see more courses around career education than previously, which encourages students to start planning for their futures!
There will also be changes to large-scale assessment tools. Currently, NWT students write diploma exams for particular courses (i.e., math, chemistry, English Language Arts, social studies) and the marks they receive on those exams generally make up to 30% of their final grade.
In the future, students will only take literacy and numeracy assessments, which are not tied to specific courses, but are a broad indicator of the student’s overall skills in those areas. As such, students’ marks on these tests will not be factored into any of their final grades.
- In Grade 10, students will take literacy and numeracy assessments.
- In Grade 12, students will just take a literacy assessment.
All students are required to complete the literacy and numeracy assessments; however, passing is not required to meet graduation requirements. The marks for these tests will appear on their high school transcripts, which can be viewed by post-secondary schools and potential employers.
Career and Education Advisors (CEAs) are available to work with students in Grades 9-12 in all NWT schools. CEAs will be updated on the new graduation requirements in order to continue to support students.
When new requirements take effect
- The NWT’s new graduation requirements will take effect when the draft curriculum is implemented for Grade 10 students in the 2024-25 school year.
- From that point on, all Grade 10 students will use the new graduation requirements.
- Anyone in Grade 11 or 12 in the 2024-25 school year will continue to use the graduation requirements that were set when they started high school.
ECE has released its professional learning plan for educators, as the territory transitions to the new NWT adapted curriculum over several years.
The professional learning will include face-to-face learning opportunities, opportunities to network with colleagues, and a suite of online courses through ConnectED that teachers will be able to access at their convenience.
Starting in 2023, ECE and superintendents have committed to providing one day per year for the next three years, from the existing professional learning days, to be dedicated to supporting the implementation of the new NWT adapted curriculum. Education bodies will determine the best approach for their schools when developing their school calendars.
The professional learning will focus on the new curriculum and assessment tools, such as report cards, standardized tests and diploma exams. It will also include information about how to collect feedback throughout the implementation and transition to the new NWT adapted curriculum.
Teaching resources, such as textbooks, will not need to be replaced. BC’s curriculum was designed without the need for prescribed resources or textbooks, so schools and teachers will be able to use resources currently in schools. However, as teachers develop lessons, additional teaching resources may be identified, developed and shared.
Teachers are invited to explore the ConnectedEd NWT website to review courses related to the NWT curriculum renewal: https://catalogue.getconnectednwt.ca/.
ECE is publishing adapted draft curricula on ConnectEd NWT, where anyone can view trialling subjects and grades and provide feedback. Educators trialling the curriculum will be able to log-in to ConnectEd to review the draft curricula and provide direct feedback. Drafts of trialling grades, Grades 4-6, and 9, are now available online; ECE will continue to upload more subjects and grades as they become available.
- View the draft curricula on ConnectEd NWT
In addition, Indigenous governments and the NWTTA will be provided with edited versions of the curricula and invited to provide input.
ECE and our education partners want to ensure that the curriculum is reflective of NWT communities and contexts. Working groups of NWT teachers and subject area experts were formed for each subject, such as math and science. These working groups reviewed all of BC’s curriculum and adapted the curriculum to reflect what we heard during numerous engagements with our education partners.
BC’s curriculum is structured in a way that makes it flexible and adaptable at the school and classroom level. However, adaptations to the curriculum will ensure that it will be open to NWT Indigenous ways, it will be appropriately challenging for students, it will support key learning for life, and it is competency-driven.
Throughout the trialling of the draft curriculum, ECE will be gathering feedback from teachers and students in order to improve and finalize the curriculum.
This curriculum is very flexible, so that means educators can blend in local cultural, geographical and historical knowledge and resources at the classroom and school level. In addition, Dene Kede and Inuuqatigiit will remain in schools. These foundational curricula weave Dene and Inuit core concepts, language and traditions into learning in NWT classrooms. NWT-created curriculum, such as Our Languages, Northern Studies, Hunter Education and Junior Kindergarten/Kindergarten, will also remain in schools.
Educators assess how students are doing in school by gathering evidence about what students know, understand, and can do with their knowledge. Assessment tools and practices include report cards, standardized tests and exams.
The design of BC’s curriculum and assessment tools focuses on students’ ability to “Know-Do-Understand” various skills, concepts, strategies, and topics. As such, introducing the new adapted curriculum in the NWT will mean some new ways of reporting on students’ learning.
The Department of Education, Culture and Employment is creating a new standard report card for use in all NWT schools. All parents/guardians and students will eventually see changes in report cards, but it will take a few years to develop, test and finalize.
Over the next couple years, only grades trialling the new adapted curriculum may see changes on their report cards.
Proficiency Scale (Grades 1-9)
Based on BC’s model, the NWT will be using a “proficiency scale” to assess (or grade) students who are trialling the curriculum. When it’s fully implemented, the proficiency scale will only be used for grades 1 to 9.
As those grades and subjects begin trialling the new adapted curriculum, students may see changes on their report cards.
In some subjects at some schools, instead of seeing a mark like a percentage or grade letter (i.e., %100 or A+) on a report card, the student will receive a level on the scale: Emerging, Developing, Proficient or Extending.
This scale will still tell you how a student is doing and it will include written feedback from their teacher that focuses on students’ strengths, areas to improve, and strategies to get there.
Proficient is the goal for all students. It means they fully understand.
Students come to school knowing different things at different levels. A student will likely be Emerging or Developing at some point throughout the school year, especially at the start, as they learn new ideas and skills. Or students may be Proficient at something right away.
For example, students might be Proficient at the reading level for their grade, but that doesn’t mean their learning stops! They can deepen their learning by reading more difficult text, or about new, more complicated subjects. Applying their learning in a new way may put them at Extending on the proficiency scale.
- See a detailed breakdown of the proficiency scale levels
- For families and students: Education Bulletin on proficiency scale
Educators will also provide written comments, called ‘descriptive feedback,’ on report cards for grades and subjects trialling the curriculum. These comments clearly explain how the student is doing, any areas they need to work on, and a plan moving forward. Teachers might also comment on the student’s work habits, their behaviour in school, and their attendance. The feedback is expected to be short, easy to understand, and specific to the student.
Why is the NWT using the proficiency scale?
When students receive letter grades, there is often a focus on the letter itself and comparing marks with others, instead of focusing on if or how students are learning. The proficiency scale points to where a student is in their overall learning and what they need to work on. It allows for more meaningful conversations about students’ progress.
The scale also views learning as ongoing, rather than signalling that learning is done once a student has achieved a certain grade. It shifts the focus from getting marks to developing skills and competencies.
There will be no changes to marking for High School students when the new curriculum is introduced in those grades. High School students will continue to receive percentage grades, as this type of marking is required when applying to post-secondary schools. However, they will see changes to their report cards once the standardized report card is introduced in all NWT schools. Parents/guardians and students will be kept up to date about what to expect!
In the 2023-24 school year, students in grades 6 and 9 will not be taking Alberta Achievement Tests (AATs). This relates to all students, not just those trialling the new curriculum. The last administration of the AATs in the NWT was in June 2023.
The AATs, and eventually the Grade 12 Alberta Diploma Exams, will be replaced by BC’s standardized assessments. The GNWT will be phasing in BC’s Foundational Skills Assessments (FSAs) in Grade 4 and 7, and Graduation Assessments in Grades 10 and 12 over several years.
- The phasing will begin with the Grade 4 FSA and Grade 10 Literacy and Numeracy graduation assessments in 2024-25.
- The last administration session for the Grade 12 Alberta Diploma Exams will be June 2026.
Feedback from education partners, educators, families and students will be used to finalize standard report cards and assessments used in the NWT.
For more information on BC provincial assessment tools please visit: https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/provincial/assessment.
In curriculum, “competency” is a learning expectation that connects a student’s skills, knowledge and values. It is the ability to do something successfully.
BC’s curriculum puts a focus on essential learning – life skills, concepts and strategies students can use after high school. Literacy and numeracy are at its core – not just reading, writing, math and numbers, but also to critically analyze and communicate orally, in writing and visually, and to apply mathematical concepts and solve problems in a variety of contexts.
It supports students to be competent thinkers and communicators, who are personally and socially competent in all areas of their lives.
BC’s curriculum is modelled on students’ ability to “Know-Do-Understand” various skills, concepts, strategies and topics or “competencies.” Students will learn and be assessed based on: what topics they will know; what skills and strategies they will be able to do; and what principles and ideas they will understand.
The ‘old way’ of instruction often saw teachers presenting information in front of a classroom and/or giving students facts and dates to memorize. This modern curriculum focuses on deeper learning, which happens through “doing” rather than passive reading or listening. It builds on students’ curiosity – it encourages them to get involved in their own education through interactive and engaging activities.
For example, in Northern Studies, instead of simply reading about treaty negotiations, students may take part in a treaty simulation, where they learn about the different roles each government played, protocols for working with Elders, Knowledge Keepers and advisors, take on roles, and work on teams to come to a consensus.
For example, in a competency-driven Financial Literacy course, students will learn about money and transactions, including how to plan and manage a budget; however, other aspects of finances will also be included, such as risk management – protecting their personal and financial data; emotions and how they can impact finances; and rights as a consumer.
Know-Do-Understand model of learning
The three elements of the “Know-Do-Understand” model are: Big Ideas (Understand), Curricular Competencies (Do) and Content (Know).
Big Ideas: Big Ideas consists of theories, principles and concepts that we want students to “Understand” as a result of their learning. Big Ideas are broad questions and complex ideas. Students can explore and deepen their understanding of these concepts over many subjects and grades. Students themselves can introduce Big Ideas by asking questions and being curious – i.e., How does where we live influence how we live? What is healthy living? What makes a great book?
Curricular Competencies: Curricular Competencies are the skills, strategies, and processes that students develop over time. They reflect the “Do” in the Know-Do-Understand model of learning. Develop, recognize, solve, construct, apply – these are actionable skills that students will need to practice “doing” to help learn the Content and understand the Big Idea.
Content: Content learning standards — the “Know” of the Know-Do-Understand model of learning — are the essential topics and knowledge at each grade level. These are often facts, definitions, rules and other information. What do students need to know to understand the Big Idea?
For example, in learning a new math formula – a student may know the key words and purpose of the equation, they can do the equation and get the correct answer, but they may not actually understand how they got to that answer.
ECE began research in 2019 to explore the curriculum of the western Canadian provinces to determine which most aligned with 34 longstanding NWT education priorities. As noted above, BC’s curriculum was very clearly the most aligned to the NWT, being that it is one of the first in Canada to focus on competencies-driven learning; is modernized to meet the needs of students in an ever-changing world; and it incorporates financial literacy, begins providing career education in the early grades, and offers applied design, skills and technologies curriculum that builds on students’ natural curiosity, inventiveness, and creativity. This all results in students being more prepared for the challenges of life after high school.
Crucially, Indigenous worldviews, knowledge, and perspectives are integrated in all BC’s curricula in a meaningful and intentional way, and are reflected in students’ mandatory learning outcomes. BC has also designed its curriculum to be flexible, which allows the NWT to adapt the BC curriculum to fit the NWT context with more ease. This can even happen at the local level, by incorporating place, school and community ways of learning and doing, and by considering this diversity an asset.
- General information about the new curriculum, what to expect, examples of competency-driven learning, trialling the curriculum:
- When and how we’re implementing the new curriculum in NWT schools:
- New graduation requirements:
- Teacher professional learning:
- View the adapted curricula as grades and subjects become available:
- Changes to report cards, including the proficiency scale:
If you have questions or concerns about the new curriculum, please email NWTCurriculum_renewal@gov.nt.ca.