Canadian Fedwatch! News Across the Nation

Why Distance Education Matters

As AU students, you’re all aware of the various reasons why good distance learning institutions are useful, if not vital to the education of Canadians. But now the federal government has statistics of its own (http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/030604/d030604b.htm) to reference. Statistics Canada, following up on an earlier study about how distance affects post-secondary attendance, have now released statistics on how distance from an institution affects children of upper, middle, and lower income families.

To make a long story short, distance from a post-secondary institution has a significant effect on the percentages of students going on to post-secondary if they come from a low or middle income family. Students from lower income families were less likely to attend any post-secondary education at all, but those not in proximity were far less likely to attend than their closer counterparts. On the other hand, there was only a marginal difference among the students from families with higher levels of income.

What this means is that in order to promote access to education we have to do one of two things – build more institutions in general, or ensure that our distance education systems are well recognized and affordable. The latest Alberta Government budget and new post-secondary act seem to show that the Provincial Government of Alberta is moving in almost the opposite direction.

With a total funding increase to Athabasca University being less than inflation over the same period, and with Athabasca University being exempted from recognition in the new Bill 43 it seems that Premier Klein is very happy to squander the Alberta Advantage of a well-educated work force, in order to continually ensure that his budgets have amazing surplus numbers he can parade to the voters come election time.

Ontario Legislates Non-Contracted Work

The Ontario Provincial Government has gone ahead with its proposed legislation (http://ogov.newswire.ca/ontario/GPOE/2003/06/03/c8956.html?lmatch=&lang=_e.html) that not only forces teachers back to work, but also requires them to do work not specified in their contracts. I am hoping and expecting the teachers union to challenge this legislation in the courts, for the simple reason that allowing this type of legislation is akin to allowing conscription or legislated slavery.

Since this legislation only affects the teachers, and then only forces them to do things that seem perfectly reasonable, such as putting comments on report cards, and meeting with the parents on parent-teacher nights, people will probably not really care. But really, is there much difference from this and from legislating that nurses must be always be on call and cannot refuse extra shifts? Or that police men must do presentations to school children after their shifts? Or perhaps combine services – make a law that has the police picking up people’s garbage in addition to their normal duties. They are travelling all over the city anyway, we could fire the garbage men and save money doing this.

What it boils down to is that if the government feels that certain duties are necessarily the responsibility of teachers, it should be willing to put its money where its mouth is and include these duties in the contracts. Passing a law that forbids “work-to-rule” actions, or in other words, requires working beyond the agreement you and your employer arranged, is simply wrong. It’s an abuse of legislative powers and I can only hope that the Ontario voters remember this come the next election.

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