Canadian Fedwatch! News Across the Nation

Education Week

From April 27th to May 3rd, it’s Education Week (http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200304/14212.html) in Alberta. In typical Alberta fashion, this means a concentration on the kindergarten to grade 12 school system through-out the province and a near neglect of post-secondary institutions. If you go to the link, you’ll see a number of events going on around Alberta at various elementary, junior, and senior high schools. What you won’t see is any event at all being mentioned for any of the Alberta post-secondary schools.

This is nothing terribly new. Post-secondary students, by and large, don’t vote and don’t write letters to the Province [1]. Irate parents of school children most certainly do.

On the bright side, if you’re one of the many AU students in Alberta that have children, you should be able to find an event somewhere nearby that might not only make an interesting diversion for a few hours, but will help your kid’s education as well.

Good News in PEI

The Prince Edward Island Provincial Government is putting forward a new Education Budget (http://www.gov.pe.ca/news/getrelease.php3?number=3052) that holds lots of good news for students in PEI and may even be an encouraging sign for AU students in Prince Edward Island as well. The budget includes an 8.2% increase in the total education budget, nearly double the increase that the “Alberta Advantage” has given Alberta citizens and AU students.

Earning limits for student loans have been dramatically increased, allowing more students to qualify and the weekly limits that can be obtained through student loans has also increased. It’s not clear if the total allowable limit for student loans will be similarly increased, but we can always hope.

More to the point for AU students is that the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission will be given extra funding to support students who are taking courses in the Maritimes that are not available on PEI itself. That PEI is willing to provide additional support to students who are getting educated elsewhere bodes well for the idea of distance education. If you are an AU student living in PEI, it might be a good idea to let your provincial government know about Athabasca University and point out how its courses can not only fill the gaps in UPEI’s programs, but can do so while allowing people to stay within the province.

A final interesting tidbit in this budget is a bursary program designed to provide bursaries for high school students who volunteer. This seems like a much better method to encourage volunteerism than the Ontario strategy of simply making volunteer hours a requirement for graduation.

Ontario Making More Space

The Ontario Provincial Government is adding a whopping 180 million dollars (http://ogov.newswire.ca/ontario/GPOE/2003/04/14/c0745.html?lmatch=&lang=_e.html) to post-secondary education. Unfortunately, as always, it is all going into creating more buildings. Hardly visionary in its approach, the Ontario Government seems to be convinced that if they just make enough buildings all the problems will go away. Rather than investing money into establishing or furthering a distance education system that can easily scale up or down to the number of students, they insist on putting the Ontario tax-payer dollars into creating expensive buildings that, once the double-cohort has graduated, are likely to be largely empty most of the time.

Then again, maybe AU can partner with the Ontario Government in some manner to use this extra space – even if it was just a place for examinations, it would still be a help to the Ontario AU students.

SARS Update

Living in Alberta, I am not terribly concerned yet about SARS affecting me, but that does not mean that there is no concern at all. It seems strange that Canada has a death rate almost twice that of any other country that is suffering SARS. If you look at the statistics (http://ogov.newswire.ca/ontario/GPOE/2003/04/20/c2564.html?lmatch=&lang=_e.html) that the Ontario Government has compiled, you see that those who have died are mostly elderly. It could be then that other countries are simply not attributing many SARS related deaths to the disease, or alternatively, that we are being too quick to attribute deaths to SARS rather than to natural causes.

I certainly hope that it is the latter, because when you consider that if our death rate is correct it means a death rate almost 4 times that of smallpox and we definitely have something to worry about. Fortunately for Athabasca University students, it is unlikely that the disease will have a serious effect on our education. One of the little acknowledged benefits of a distance education – with tutors and students in remote locations, local conditions are less likely to have an effect on the whole community.

[1] Generational Change And The Decline Of Political Participation: The Case Of Voter Turnout In Canada. http://www.youthconference.mcgill.ca/GidengilPaper.pdf

A native Calgarian, Karl is perpetually nearing the completion of his Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Information Studies. He also works for the Computer Sciences Virtual Helpdesk for Athabasca University and plans to eventually go on to tutor and obtain his Master’s Degree.

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