I’ve been waiting for this. I mean, REALLY waiting. I had a glimpse into the work that the Education Policy committee was building for Alberta Party’s education policy back in the winter, and even back then, I knew this piece of work had the potential to become THE jewel in our policy crown (of course, back then I hadn’t seen the “People Policy”, set to be adopted at this weekend’s AGM, which may be tied for the “crown jewel” title).

Naysayers who may wish to comment, upon reading this policy, that we just “copied” this party or that group or candidate can save the wear on their keyboards. This policy was born in the living room of Albertans who attended a Big Listen and told us what they expect education in Alberta to look like. From there it was taken to a group of volunteers – many of them educators and experts and parents and students – who spent close to a year crafting the key objectives and priorities. This is authentic, organic Alberta Party policy at its finest.

Here’s just some of what I love about this policy:

1) Emphasis on critical thinking skills: I’ve been ranting for years about where I feel education needs to go for the “21st Century Learner”. With the dizzying pace at which technology is changing, knowledge is increasing and the global economy is evolving, I believe we need to find a different way to educate. Trying to stuff enough information into kids’ heads so they know what they need to know to be effective contributors to society and the economy is unrealistic anymore. Young people in high school today are preparing for jobs that don’t yet exist, so how do we prepare them for that? We must instill in students the critical thinking skills and passion for life long learning so that they are well positioned to flex and flow and meet the challenges of new and emerging opportunities.

2) Another of my most fundamental positions centres around local decision-making. I am of the firm belief that if you want the most bang for your provincially-budgeted buck, put as much money and autonomy as close to the ground as you can. The folks living & working in communities know how best to maximize their unique strengths, address their unique challenges, and wring every drop out of every dollar. The education policy upholds this philosophy beautifully.

3) Special needs need specialized support. I’ve talked with parents with special needs kids who’ve wept with frustration and concern for their children under the current system, where budget cuts essentially translated into cutting their children off from receiving an adequate (never mind quality) education. It’s a travesty that many see as a value statement, believing that Alberta Education feels that educating children with special needs as a lower priority.

Of course there’s more! Read the policy for yourself and PLEASE provide the party with comments and feedback. It’s intended to be the starting point for sweeping legislative change that will markedly change the way education is delivered in this province. My sincere hope is that when the Alberta Party forms government and legislates these reforms, this province will become known as the province rich in knowledge and human capital.

And here’s a free bonus: watch this interesting video on where learning around the world is headed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jp_oyHY5bug&feature=related