Alberta schools apple of U.K.’s eye
National Post · Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011
There are many places in the world where the Alberta way of doing things has fans.
Take the province’s approach to education. School officials in Oakland, Calif., have admired it so much, they’ve tried copying it there. Management texts have been written about it. They’ve praised it in New Zealand, Germany, Sweden, New York City and Chicago. And now, the U.K.’s Education secretary, Michael Gove, is hailing the Alberta education model as the prescription to fix his country’s ailing state school system.
“In … Alberta, schools have been liberated, given the autonomy enjoyed by charter schools in the U.S.,” Mr. Gove said last summer. “Headteachers control their own budgets, set their own ethos and shape their own environments. And the result: Alberta now has the best-performing schools of any English speaking country.”
Mr. Gove is eager to emulate this system from Alberta , all the way over in Britain, where his Conservative government has vowed to improve the struggling publicly funded state school system.
U.K. students ranked 25th among the countries ranked by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) when it came to reading, math and science skills, according to its most recent Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey, in 2009.
British Prime Minister David Cameron told an interviewer last year he was “terrified” to send his kids to the state secondary school in central London. In many places in Britain, he said, “there isn’t a choice of good schools.”
Canada, meantime, ranked sixth overall in the 2009 PISA report, behind Shanghai, Korea, Finland, Hong Kong and Singapore. But Alberta students did most of the heavy lifting: In the past three PISA reports, Alberta has handily beaten every other English speaking region in the world.
“Alberta has been the No. 1 province nine or 10 times out of 12″ assessments, says Peter Cowley, education researcher at the Fraser Institute.
With that record, it’s little wonder the province has been noticed by international educators.