Wednesday, 07 December 2011 15:30

School forum in Lethbridge includes southern Alberta students

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By Caroline Zentner — Southern Alberta Newspapers

Students in Alberta should have an education system that’s flexible, engaging and respectful of all.

Those were some of the visions brought forth at the Dec. 5’s Education Act consultation meeting in Lethbridge.

More than 200 students, parents, teachers, trustees and administrators from across southern Alberta put their ideas on the table at the fifth of seven such meetings in the province.

Rohil Gupta, in Grade 7, and Carter Potts, in Grade 9, both attend CAPE School in Medicine Hat. They said they’d be all for an education system that engages students.

“I would probably make learning more fun so people would want to learn rather than just a book and pencil and learn and write and learn and write, so every day when they come into school they’re glad,” Gupta said.

“I agree with Rohil. I like things to be more interactive,” Potts said. “Everyone learns differently. Some people need to do things with their hands, but some people work better in their head, like with math.”

Larissa Crawford, a Grade 11 student at Chinook High School in Lethbridge, and Iain Sander, a Grade 11 student at Catholic Central High School, are part of the Minister’s Student Advisory Council. They were at the meeting to help gather the perspectives of participants and bring them to the Speak Out team in Edmonton. Speak Out is a student engagement forum launched in 2008, but as students, they also have ideas about the education system.

“I like having increased flexibility and catering to the students’ needs. I believe that education should be anytime, any place, any space. That means that students can learn in any environment at any time anywhere,” Sander said. “Every student is different and they learn differently.”

“I would really like to see more involvement of the First Nations,” Crawford said. “At my school, there isn’t a First Nations mentor-like, kind of teacher. I think that every school should have someone that these kids can go to.”

Crawford said she’d also like to see less focus on First Nations people as victims and more about the positive aspects of their history and culture and other cultures around the world. She said exchange students who come to her school seem to have more knowledge of world history.

“If we started learning more globally at a younger age it would be easier for us to go into the real world and have an easier transition from high school to normal life,” she said.

Jeff Haines, a teacher at Sunrise School in Brooks, works at an alternative school with students whose needs haven’t been met in the regular school system.

“(The education system) maybe hasn’t been flexible enough to meet their needs and also recognize the other issues that are upon those students and their families,” Haines said. “If we’re really going to put students or families or the future at heart here that’s what we need to do. If we’re trying to force them into a certain model and it’s not working then we probably need to rethink what needs to happen.”

Carolyn Stuparyk, spokeswoman for Alberta Education, said information from the consultation meetings, online submissions, Twitter and Facebook messages will be put into a report, likely early next year. She said the plan is to introduce the act in the spring legislative session although that could change if an election is called.

“There’s never too many ideas and conversations you can have with Albertans about such an important piece of legislation. It’s really about making sure we’re doing the right thing. We’ve been talking to Albertans quite a bit over the last few years and this is kind of that last check to make sure that we’ve got this right,” she said.

From the meetings held so far, Stuparyk said many people have said the act is on the right track in terms of ensuring schools are safe and respectful, students older than 19 have greater access, boards have the authority to meet local needs and parents are involved in their child’s education. Students have said they want to go to school and be excited about what they’re learning.

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