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Hey! Teachers! Leave that minister alone!

By: Ken Allred

  |  Posted: Saturday, May 24, 2014 06:00 am

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Come on teachers – give Education Minister Jeff Johnson a break. To begin with, the Task Force for Teaching Excellence final report was not authored by the minster of education and has not been adopted as government policy. It was an independent task force, albeit set up by the Department of Education but its membership drew from the teaching profession, other educators at the post-secondary level and employers of graduates of our educational system.

The task force mandate was to improve Alberta’s already excellent educational system and build on the long-term vision established by a previous report entitled Inspiring Education, which as I recall was endorsed by the Alberta Teachers’ Association and teachers in general. The task force heard from more than 3,000 Albertans, including the ATA.

The issues that seem to be most disconcerting to the ATA and the many teachers who just last week gave the minister a vote of non-confidence are not new issues.

It has been recommended time and time again that if teachers want to be regarded as professionals they must separate the professional self-regulating functions from their advocacy role. The root for this recommendation is from the Policy on Professions and Occupations, released in the legislature in 1978 by Minister Bert Hohol.

That policy also recommended that, “All professions should develop formalized continuing education programs for their members through the resources of their own associations and through co-ordination with educational institutions.”

Sometime subsequent to the introduction of the policy, an additional requirement was introduced in three “model” acts – the Land Surveyors Act, the Architects Act and the Engineering Professions Act – all passed in 1982. This requirement established a practice review board, which was a proactive scheme to address the continuing competency of registered professionals – in other words, a five-year competency review.

I can personally vouch for the effectiveness of the practice review board in the case of the land surveying profession. The board reviews the individual practices of all members on a five-year cycle with in-depth reviews of the current practice and recommendations to the practitioner on how his or her practice may be improved. It is a very helpful and accepted program that ensures the competency of land surveyors for the protection of the public. It is not a disciplinary tribunal, although if serious issues arise, usually as a result of a lack of co-operation, a reference can be made to discipline.

These policies of the government of Alberta (not just Alberta Education) have evolved over a period of over 40 years since the original Chichak investigation into the professions. They have been the subject of discussion amongst all professional organizations and have been rationalized and modified to meet changing technology and societal norms. They are not new and the ATA and Alberta’s teachers have been party to the process.

The task force report is not an attack on employment rights in any sense of the imagination but rather a bringing together of the recommendations of Inspiring Education with policies governing professionals and occupations.

If teachers want to be recognized as a profession they need to start behaving like professionals, not union hacks – complaining about every government proposal!

Government is not picking on teachers, only trying to work with teachers to improve the education system for the benefit of students.

Give the minister a break – he is only doing his job, and a good job at that!

Ken Allred is a former St. Albert alderman and MLA.


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