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Wednesday, 15 May 2013 15:19

Changes to Alta. education system should be positive

Written by  Rose Sanchez
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Since 2009, officials in the Alberta education system have been gathering information and talking about what education looks like for a student sitting in a desk in 2030.

There have been meetings with parents and students, individual sessions with teachers and administrators, and time for general feedback from John Q. Public.
Technology is changing rapidly and the demands of the workforce are too. What kinds of tools may be available in 20 years for students to use to help them learn and what kinds of skills will they need to be successful?
With input gathered, the Alberta government was able to come up with the Inspiring Education document in 2010. The steering committee’s report presented a vision for education in Alberta to 2030.
Albertans said they wanted youth to be engaged thinkers, ethical citizens and have an entrepreneurial spirit. The report encouraged expanding the concept of education beyond the school and partnering with community, as well as ensuring children are the centre of all decisions related to learning and the education system. It also said the focus should shift to competencies as opposed to stating information and recalling facts. Curriculum would become more interdisciplinary, combining arts, math and science.
There were some big ideas. With changes to how students learn, there would have to be changes to how students are assessed and teachers’ roles would adjust in a more learner-centred model.
With all of these ideas floating around the past few years, it was nice last week to see the Alberta government announce some changes for education that reflect the work done through Inspiring Education.
In the coming years, students in grades 3, 6 and 9 are going to write re-designed Provincial Achievement Tests. Rather than being tested on their knowledge of the basics at the end of the year, students will be assessed at the beginning. That way, teachers will better understand the strengths and weaknesses of each child to help him or her find success during the school year.
High-school students are going to see more flexibility with their diploma exams and be able to complete a course on their own timeline as opposed to having to sit in front of a teacher for 25 hours per credit. Students who may need a little longer than a semester of study to learn what they need to in Math, will be able to take that extra time as opposed to failing the course and having to repeat it.
These are all changes for the better. And government is taking its time to make these big changes, piloting them in some schools in small chunks to work out the bugs prior to rolling them out across the province.
It’s nice to see the Alberta government moving forward with the work that was done showing they have been listening to educators, parents and students.
It will be important for government officials to continue to hear feedback about the changes, especially from the students for whom the system is being designed. 
Rose Sanchez is assistant managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact her with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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