Canadian Fedwatch! News Across the Nation

Education Second Place

In Alberta’s It’s Your Future survey, education came in second (http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200410/172401F7FC19F-BBA2-45E7-B085888533EE2751.html) only to health-care as a priority for Albertans. This is, no doubt, in large part due to people very much like you, so a big thank you for that. I hope the government will take the time to listen to the survey’s results and actually do something.

In fact, the two specific suggestions that the government noted as coming from the survey were decreasing health-care waiting times and increasing post-secondary funding. That post-secondary funding was singled out among all the aspects of education will hopefully make the government see just how important that particular aspect is.

Seeing as it’s widely expected that there will be an election in Alberta in the next few months, we may even see some action on this point before the election spending spree has died down. While I doubt it’ll be enough to make AU into a truly publicly funded institution again (as the majority of AU’s income now comes from private sources) every little bit helps.

Now all we have to do is get the Federal government on board.

Alberta Pays for Post-Secondary Office

The Province of Alberta has announced a deal (http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200410/17257D2F40B28-C6BB-41EB-93ED958801459332.html) to make Microsoft’s Office software available to all K-12 and post-secondary institutions for the next three years for just over six million dollars, which will realize a savings (according to the provincial government) of about ten million dollars for Alberta’s learning institutions.

Unfortunately for AU students, this deal only applies to those computers that AU has jurisdiction over. So no, we can’t get the government to pay for Office on our home computers.

Personally, I’m a bit torn about this deal. I like that one of the costs of a modern education will now be being handled by the provincial government directly, but I’m worried that schools will be expected to reduce their budgets by that ten million dollars instead of reinvesting the money in other areas. If that’s the case, it’s not a win for the school system by any means, but in fact a loss as they’ll simply be robbed of the ability to choose which type of software they want to use.

For Microsoft, this is obviously a winning situation. As cost-cutting pressures increase on our education institutions many are turning to free software or open source for their needs. By ensuring that schools and institutions will have easily available and legal Office, they can try to head off that choice in advance.

Of course, AU doesn’t receive nearly as much as other institutions do, as our staff size compared to our student body is small, and most of the computers that our tutors use don’t fall under AU jurisdiction. Plus, AU doesn’t maintain large labs like the other universities in the province do. I expect that for Athabasca University, this new program will not make a lot of difference.

Post-Secondary Credits for Secondary Work

In Nova Scotia, a new partnership has been announced (http://www.gov.ns.ca/news/details.asp?id=20041020005) that will allow students taking advanced computer networking courses in high-school to earn a credit toward a community college diploma in information technology.

I see this as part of a trend of information technology training becoming more and more a part of the foundations we’re taught when we’re learning our ABCs, and eventually I expect that fixing your computer or software will become a blue-collar industry, much like fixing your car or other such services. Sometimes I wonder if the day may come where a high-school education and some apprenticeship might be all that’s really needed in order to become a skilled programmer.

For now, however, it means that those students in Nova Scotia who take this degree will be able to acquire their full certificate earlier and thus require less in student funding to learn the same thing. That works to benefit everybody, so I certainly won’t argue against it.

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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