Alberta Education Went Quiet – What Should We Make Of It?

Is Alberta Education hibernating? To me, it looks like it. The last news release on its Newsroom web page is five months old. The most recent update on Curriculum Redesign is from June 2014. And, even though I’ve signed up for it, not a single Inspiring Education newsletter arrived in my inbox. I search through the Alberta Ed website, hoping to get some updates about the much anticipated change process, but I find nothing. Is no news indicative of a freeze in this process? Or could it be that the provincial Education Ministry decided to keep things away from the public view?

After the extensive public consultations on education reform, the exciting initiatives and the transparency shown by Alberta Education over the past few years, the sudden lack of communication is starting to reek of autocratic practices. I fear we’re back to a top-down approach. I’m worried that the current provincial leadership is more authoritarian than the one it replaced. And, unfortunately, some recent comments from Jim Prentice, our premier, only reinforced my worries. Am I reading them out of context? I can’t know because, in terms of what’s happening in education, I don’t have a context anymore. I’m in the dark.

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As I explained here, although it started off on the wrong foot, Inspiring Education can only be rectified, it can’t be abandoned. If they are being dealt with wisely, Alberta Ed’s mis-steps can only fortify the education reform movement in the province. After all, mistakes are the best way to learn, aren’t they? Shouldn’t we practice what we preach? But do we? How much of the Inspiring Education roadmap still stands? Which parts of it are being revised? Was anything discarded? We must be kept informed.

The precipitous drop in oil prices has hit Alberta’s economy hard. These days we hear of budget cuts everywhere. Could that be why communication from Alberta Ed was interrupted? Should we assume that changes continue despite the silence? Should we assume that they stopped? I hope it’s the former, since education reform seems to me too important to be put on hold. Last September, a new team took the reins at Alberta Ed. And this wasn’t simply because the old team had reached the end of its term. As far as I can tell, the changing of guard was due to the old team’s bold vision and the haste shown in implementing it. Therefore, I expected the new team to be more cautious. More systematic. More conservative. But I am left guessing. Unlike this time last year, when communication was ongoing and a lot seemed to be going on, right now it’s hard to know where we stand. If things are moving at all, it happens in hiding.

Whether it has their support or not, the fate of Inspiring Education is important to all residents of Alberta. Some may feel relieved thinking that things aren’t changing anymore, that we’re in “good hands” and back to “good old schooling”. But not everybody shares this view. I, for one, am hopeful that, while it is learning its lessons, Alberta Ed is moving forward with the changes. And the silence invites speculation. Is no news good news, or bad news? Are we back to top-down decisions made behind closed doors? The school system is such an intrinsic part of a community that it affects everybody. Regardless of how much we care or how we think of it, education reform cannot be left on the back burner. It’s urgent. And, in this day and age, we can’t let it happen in the shadows and behind a wall of silence. One way or another, we’re all invested in it, and have the right to know what’s going on.

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