To Education Minister David Eggen
On three issues affecting Alberta home educators
As you know, the Alberta Home Education Association advocates for the primary right of a parent over the education of that parent's children.
We especially advocate for home educating parents.
In that capacity, parents should be respected as the primary educators of children, and parents should be supported in the creation, implementation, and evaluation of education program plans (EPPs) for those children.
More than 25 years of home education in Alberta has proven this to be effective and there is good reason to continue this and to support parents even more.
You've made clear, Minister, that no significant changes are to be expected in your review of the Education Act (passed in 2012 but not yet declared) or in the Home Education Regulation.
AHEA welcomed that news and we await final versions of that legislation.
But AHEA wants to point out that parents don't want rights and freedoms to be lost incrementally through bureaucratic decisions or legislative confusion.
There are three current issues which need your attention.
First, we want to again state our opposition to Bill 10, the act to amend the Alberta Bill of Rights.
While it's true that this bill passed under the previous government, there are several confused ideas contained therein and several dangerous precedents being set.
This bill undermines parental authority and should be rescinded.
We know you have asked school boards to send you guidelines for implementation but this issue requires much more thought.
There are many public voices asking you to take time to reconsider the impact of this bill and those voices include the home educating parents of AHEA.
Second, AHEA wants to be very clear that home educated parents see each child as an individual with unique talents and needs requiring an individualized education plan (since one size doesn't fit all), so that standardized testing should not be considered for home educated students.
We understand that you, as Education Minister, want to know how well home educated students are doing.
AHEA continues to assert that current practice - information contained in evaluations done by parents with certified Alberta teachers (home school facilitators, especially those employed by the Independent Contracted Home Education Specialists or ICHES) - can provide you with the information you wish. This is what we proposed at our December meeting and in our most recent email to you.
Third, the evaluation of instrumental and vocal music marks should continue to be done by music experts following the program from the Royal Conservatory of Music, including the Alberta Registered Music Teachers' Association.
Although this has been the practice for decades here in Alberta, a bureaucratic decision was made in April 2015 to end this practice.
In your February 1st 2016 letter to Beth Olver, the President of ARMTA, you noted that "only marks awarded by Alberta's provincially accredited schools are reported on the Alberta Transcript."
In other words, in order to earn a mark, the music course must be 'school-delivered', as if such learning could only happen within a school building.
But there are many examples, including the Green certificate and the Registered Apprenticeship Program, where Alberta Education uses marks for courses that are not 'school-delivered'.
In addition, if an Alberta student earns a passing mark on a diploma exam it is immaterial how or where that student gained the knowledge, whether through a 'provincially accredited school' or not.
In each case, the education and evaluation of the student is overseen by a certified teacher, and this is the same as marks given by the registered teachers from ARMTA.
Awarding music marks in this way has been current practice for many years but, without consultation and without any announcement of the change, a decision was made that
a) undermines the expertise of the very respected teachers of ARMTA,
b) in doing so, restricts the educational possibilities for home educating parents and students, and
c) removes proper recognition for work done by home educated students.
This decision was made just before you, Minister Eggen, assumed office, and AHEA asks that you revisit and reverse it.
Minister Eggen, AHEA knows that you have many responsibilities and there are many voices that need to be heard.
We would humbly submit to you that the voices that need hearing the most are the parents and students.
That should be the case with each of these issues.
Respect parental authority so that students will get the best education.
Paul van den Bosch
Alberta Home Education Association