Canadian Fedwatch! News Across the Nation

Institut Français? Excusez-moi?

The University of Regina is receiving over 20 million dollars in order to establish its new Institute francais (http://www.canadianheritage.gc.ca/newsroom/news_e.cfm?Action=Display&code=3N0440E), or basically, a French language section of the university. Of that funding 6.9 million comes from the federal government, and the remaining 13.8 million will be supplied by the Province of Saskatchewan.

While I do not question the value of helping people learn a second language, I always have to question the cost-effectiveness of spending federal money in creating a localized service when there’s a readily available national service available that can accomplish the same thing. Yes, once again I am speaking of Athabasca University.

We have a French Program at Athabasca University that apparently works quite well. Language instruction is provided by various media, including oral exams done by telephone. Perhaps the Federal Government simply doesn’t know about us? After all, spending 6.9 million in Saskatchewan will do much to benefit those people who happen to be in the area and able to go. But spending 6.9 million in Athabasca benefits anybody who can pick up a phone and in addition does not have the overhead of trying to start up a new program or institute.

Which seems to give national tax-payers more value for their dollar?

As we move into a new federal government, with a new federal cabinet, now strikes me as an excellent time to write your Prime Minister and your Member of Parliament and point out the benefits of Athabasca University being able to deliver a university education anywhere in Canada.

After all, a new government would certainly love to be able to say that they promoted national education in a real and tangible way, especially shortly before a national election.

Money for Drop Outs

The Province of New Brunswick is providing $150,000 (http://www.gnb.ca/cnb/news/edu/2004e0077ed.htm) to a program to help keep university students from dropping out. The funds are part of over $618,000 that St. Thomas University has devoted to this project. Unfortunately, it seems the funds are geared toward providing academic advice and counselling, and thus not addressing one of the major reasons why students discontinue their studies – a simple lack of funds.

My other concern is that focussing too much on trying to keep students in university might ultimately cause the university itself to lower its standards or to funnel many students through an “easy” program route simply so that they manage to get their degrees.

University is hard, and some people simply are not made to have a university education (while being completely capable and successful in other areas). Sometimes it’s better not to try to force a square peg through a round hole, no matter how many round pegs you want in the end.

Casualties of War

When you sign up for an active military career in the Department of National Defence, you’re signing up to put your life on the line. Four Canadians (http://www.forces.gc.ca/site/Newsroom/view_news_e.asp?id=1296) found out what this really means last week in Afghanistan. Only three lived through the lesson, and one civilian died as well.

I am never a big fan of military actions, but I recognize that sometimes they’re necessary. I have more respect for the Canadian military’s primary role as peace-keepers, rather than aggressors, than I do for the militaries of most other nations. Part of that respect comes from times like this, when our forces were hit by what appears to be a suicide bomber. My respect comes from knowing that, even after this, our men and woman in Afghanistan can still be relied upon to treat the rest of the people over there with the respect that they deserve. My respect comes from knowing that these men and women are willing to risk their lives not just to defend Canada, but also to help give people of other nations the chance of knowing the peace and prosperity we live with every day.

So for those many students of AU who are serving in the military, my gratitude for your service. You represent us to the world, and you make us proud.

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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