Letter to the Editor

Dear editor,
For the past 90 years every student in Alberta has had access to quality distance education opportunities, created and delivered by Alberta teachers.
From its humble beginnings in an office in the back room at the legislature, ‘correspondence’ education initially provided courses to kids who lived on remote farms, ranches and lumber camps. Alberta Distance Learning Centre (ADLC) today still offers correspondence style lessons for those who prefer them, but many students take advantage of a full range of interactive online courses, tablet apps and courses than can be completed on a smartphone or tablet.
Always striving for excellence for Albertans, ADLC offers immigrants the chance to upgrade their English language skills and offers adults the opportunity to upgrade their education while working from home.  It partners with schools in providing knowledge and employability skills and workplace safety. It provides students the opportunity to study forensics, learn to speak French, German, Spanish or Ukrainian, receive Cisco Systems Certification, enroll in French immersion, or work with a forestry industry simulator.
All of these courses are supported by teachers who work with students by phone, Skype, email and even old fashioned snail mail. These teachers work hard to develop relationships with their students, believing that teachers are at the heart of education.  Last year alone 60,000 students took advantage of these flexible learning opportunities-some from home, some from abroad, but most from inside traditional small schools or outreach programmes that were unable to offer a full range of courses.
In March of 2013, government funding to schools offering courses via Alberta Distance Learning Centre, Alberta’s largest and only provincially mandated public distance education school, was slashed by 57 per cent.
Today, many rural and outreach schools can no longer afford to access these courses for their kids, leaving them with limited options.  Northern and rural schools that struggle to attract and retain a wide range of skilled teachers in a variety of subject areas are particularly affected.
Alberta Education promises all Albertans inclusive and equitable access to educational opportunities.  Yet nothing could be further from the truth.
Students in large urban centres have access to a wide range of courses, yet students in rural schools have far fewer options.  As a northerner and a potential parent, I strongly object to our provincial government limiting opportunities for our children.  All students deserve access to high quality educational opportunities.
I ask you to join me in contacting your MLA regarding this issue or meet us at the Alberta Legislature on Sunday, November 30 at 3pm to show your support.

Kyla Coulman-Absher
Barrhead, Alberta

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