NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 6, 2006

Eastern Canadians love putting down their wealthy western cousins as loutish rednecks who have the dumb luck to be sitting on pools of oil and natural gas.  They do not seem to have noticed that the entire Albertan economy -- not just the energy sector -- is booming, growing faster than that of any other province, says the Economist.

Perhaps it could be that Albertans are actually doing some things right in building their economy, says the Economist.  Many educators acknowledge that over the past 30 years Alberta has quietly built the finest public education system in Canada:

  • The curriculum has been revised, stressing core subjects (English, science, mathematics).
  • School facilities and teacher training have been improved.
  • Clear achievement goals have been set and a rigorous province-wide testing program for grades three, six, nine and twelve has been established.

And it is all paying off.  Alberta's students regularly outshine those from other Canadian provinces:

  • In 2004 national tests, Alberta's 13- and 16-year-olds ranked first in mathematics and science, and third in writing.
  • In international tests they rank alongside the best in the world; the province's 15-year-olds scored among the top four of 40 countries in mathematics, reading and science.

All this is not to say that they have all the answers in Alberta.  Their rigorous measurement scheme has revealed that schools still need to do a lot better teaching aboriginal and immigrant children and ensuring that more students finish high school, instead of being lured out early by the red-hot economy, says the Economist.

Source: Editorial, "Clever red-necks," Economist, September 23, 2006.

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