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Education's 10 Point Plan

Posted on by Richard Einarson

On Tuesday, Education Minister Lukaszuk released his 10 Point Plan for Education.

I think it touches on some important points, but misses a few key areas and lacks the punch I was hoping for.

I support the ideas of increasing parental voice in education, decreasing travel times and creating more options to gain high school credits. I’m glad to see the needs of Aboriginal students singled out, but feel that the challenges facing First Nations, Metis and Inuit (FNMI) children require more than simply better coordination between federal and provincial governments. Most obviously, the Chiefs, Band Councils, parents, elders and students must be included in the solution. The underlying issues behind poor academic achievement of FNMI students are complex and will require a sustained, cross-ministerial and comprehensive approach. And while I understand the desire to focus on the Northlands District first, I am concerned that this will mean that the significant (and growing) number of FNMI students in Edmonton and other urban centers will have to wait.

In general, I would have preferred to see more clarity and definitive action in a number of areas. In particular, I am disappointed to note the lack of clear action on addressing children with special learning needs. After months of consultation for “Setting the Direction,” I still don’t see any definitive action from the government. Creating a more inclusive learning environment requires changes to funding mechanisms, additional training for teachers and more support in the classroom. Looking at the “design specifications” for new schools to include wheelchair ramps sounds wonderful, but it won’t do much to help the students in the schools today and the teachers who are struggling to support them and the parents who feel they have to be their child’s relentless advocate.

I strongly support the idea of wraparound services and see schools as the hubs for communities. However, Minister Lukaszuk’s plan is very light on details in this area other than to say that “new school design specifications will better accommodate health-related services, community sports programs.”  Will the work that was begun by former Education Minister Dave Hancock be expanded or shelved? The fact is we need a plan for schools that already exist, particularly those that are facing the challenges of low enrollment. An innovative and forward-thinking approach to sharing space and resources for the benefit of students and the community at large would have had more impact and lasting benefit than simply looking at the designs for future schools. As well, the provincial utilization rates, which impact funding, also need to be addressed to make the idea of wraparound fully feasible.

As a party, we are committed to the idea of listening to Albertans and are committed to effective, on-going dialogue with the public. However, when consultation is used as a stalling technique for action, it erodes the (already precarious) trust between politicians and the public. It undermines people’s willingness to participate in future conversations and makes it very difficult to grow a culture of public engagement. There is no need for further review the benefits of early education- there is mountains of evidence that this is crucially important. As the government delays action, the window of time to act closes. Rather than “reviewing the learning benefits of full-day kindergarten and identifying operational issues will help us better understand the implications of a possible future programming change”, we would have preferred a strong and clear commitment to ensuring that every child has the early education opportunities necessary so they can arrive at school ready to learn and have the brightest possible future. Investments in early education have proven, long-term and measurable benefits to society. We feel children are worth the investment.

The Alberta Party sees education as the cornerstone of all public policy and feel it deserves more substance than Minister Lukaszuk 10 point plan.

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