In an address to teachers at the North Central Teachers’ Convention, Education Minister Dave Hancock stressed the need for educational transformation in Alberta—no matter who is the next minister of education.
“I don’t think it should come as a shock to anyone that I’m probably in my last few months of service as minister of education,” Hancock told the assembly. “A new premier will be selected, probably in the September timeframe, and the new premier will choose a new cabinet.”
Hancock said that a new minister does not mean that all the work that has been done over the past few years will necessarily come to an end. He believes that the challenges and the opportunities in education that have been worked on over the past few years have not been dictated by the political situation. Instead, he told teachers, they are driven by the pressing reality of increased competition in the global economy, rapidly advancing technology, a culturally diverse province and students who are very different from those of previous generations.
“These drivers of change,” said Hancock, “are not going to disappear, regardless of who is sitting in the minister’s spot or in the legislature. We still need to create a truly inclusive education system in which all students have value and all students have the opportunity to succeed to the best of their abilities.”
Hancock said that students will need an education system that prepares them for the future. “To do that,” said Hancock, “we will need to continue to look at the focus of our curriculum and how it can be designed in such a way that it creates an opportunity for success for every student.” He also said that “we are going to need a different way of assessing the progress of students.”
Teaching excellence, not time in the classroom, is essential for student success, said Hancock. He also said that he believes teachers will need more support for the challenges of inclusive education. His vision for education includes enabling teachers to work with new curricula to create engaging and authentic learning experiences.
Hancock said communities need to be more actively engaged in education and the ongoing transformation of the system. “Engagement is key to collaboration,” said the minister, “and collaboration is key to real and lasting change. Most of our discussion with the public has focused on the features of education; now it’s time to focus on the value of education. We must help all Albertans understand that education will determine our future.”
Hancock said that the new premier should see education as the most important investment Alberta can make. And the best way to make that happen, he said, would be to continue speaking with one voice.
“I can tell you from a political perspective that whenever there are multiple opinions, ideas and competing philosophies, the most likely political action is inaction,” admitted Hancock. “When there is a clear consensus on an issue, we are much more comfortable making the decisions required to respond to the issue.”
Hancock believes that during the next few months education stakeholders should reflect on what they’ve seen, heard and learned on the journey to transformation. He admitted that not all education stakeholders agree on every issue but he said that he believes that there are more areas of agreement than disagreement.
Hancock asked teachers to help Albertans understand what is needed in education to take Alberta to its desired future. “When they have that understanding,” said Hancock, “they can ask the right questions of those who want to serve them and effectively evaluate their answers.
“Together we have created the momentum for positive change in education, and we must continue that momentum,” said Hancock. “We cannot stop and then start all over again. We cannot afford to dither about education. If we do, we will severely limit the future of our children and that of our province.”