Thursday, January 28, 2010

Education Forum

An Education Forum was held last night by CAPSC and was attended by Minister of Education, Dave Hancock as well as a number of MLA's from across Calgary. Minister Hancock spoke about the challenges and future of education in this province. Over 100 people attended, including yours truly. Some of the highlights of Minister Hancock's comments included:

- All areas (government, school, teachers, family, community) must work collaboratively rather than competitively to create success in education for children.

- Money alone will not guarantee success; transformative change in the education system is needed.

- A larger proportion of funding needs to be directed to the educational needs of first nations and children in care.

- Excellence in teaching is fundamental to our children's success; we need to look at how children learn but also how we teach. Modern and progressive training for teachers is required as well as valuing and supporting new teachers. The current number of teachers leaving the profession (25% in first 5 years) is too high. Teachers should be supported through professional development so that they continue to bring their passion for teaching to work everyday.

- Teachers also need to be supported in areas of troubled students and there is a need to involve parents more in assisting with literacy and other concerns. Teachers are only part of the equation, not all.

- Every student should be exposed to the arts as part of their educational experience. The current review of the fine arts curriculum is intended to expand the role of arts in education rather than contract it.

- Mr. Hancock reiterated a number of times, his belief of the need to reevaluate how dollars are spent so that they can be used appropriately. It's not a matter of adding additional funding in all cases, but redeploying it. We are in a period of fiscal restraint.

After Minister Hancock's remarks, there was an opportunity to ask questions of him. Here are some of his comments arising out of the questions asked:

- Regarding budget cuts, while he acknowledged that we are in a period of fiscal restraint, he is not anticipating cuts. There will be pressures to costs and wages but his focus is that we cannot afford to impact teachers in the classrooms.

- He is considering eliminating the grade 3 PAT's. Any testing done should have value and should be reviewed to make sure it's right for students.

- The class size initiative remains ongoing. Alberta is seeing an increase in the number of students due to more births in the last few years. This will be a struggle over the next several years. We can expect to see changes to how resources are deployed in this area, with particular focus on issues with class sizes for K-3.

- Proposed changes to the Education Act are anticipated in the fall, but the public will have an opportunity to provide feedback.

- He has a strong belief in early childhood education and if it was up to him, we would see full day kindergarten as well as junior kindergarten.

As there was not enough time to answer all of the questions, CAPSC will be sending the remainder of the questions to Minister Hancock's office and hopes to be able to provide an update in a future newsletter. Any parent with questions for the Minister is welcome to email him at Please let us know if you email him with any questions and the response you receive.

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