04/22/2013 05:05 EDT | Updated 06/20/2013 05:12 EDT

Let's Give Alberta Education the Freedom to Serve

Every corporate culture needs a theme and a good one for Alberta Education is "Freedom to Serve." This means that for the teachers to be free to serve the students and parents by helping the children build good character is more important than grades or credits. This means that the school system should be free to emphasize teaching the children to serve their families and their community, over and above an emphasis on grades and credits.

Prerequisites should be guidelines. We should appreciate that, given a good environment and attitude, for the vast majority of students, any curriculum material can be mastered quickly.

The importance here, is to focus on giving the students, a happy and safe environment within which to learn. The importance here is to realize, that for the most part, the students themselves are the environment. And the school system should be free to make helping the children build good character more important than grades and credits.

The above has become topical, especially because all of Canada is mourning the loss of two young girls to suicide within a year. With it being made clear to us that the particular school environment they were in was unsafe. And I am sure, no one is more grieved, apart from the parents, than the public school officials. So as a society, let's give the public school officials the freedom to set the importance of grades and credits and prerequisites aside, and emphasize rather the importance of helping the children, and the importance of making schools good and safe learning environments.

If a student is in danger of bullying there has to be more options available, and I think the public school system should consider tutored and encouraging home schooling, a good and reasonable option for a time. A happy time with Mom or a relative at home with some good books and curriculum is always a good time.

In Alberta, in the new Education Act, we have a wonderful affirmation of parent directed education.

Section 32

Parent responsibilities

A parent has the prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be provided to the parent's child, and as a partner in education, has the responsibility to (a) act as the primary guide and decision-maker with respect to the child's education,

Section 32 affirms parent directed education in Alberta, and that parents can freely choose what they believe is best for their children at the time, between public schools, catholic schools, home schools and denominational schools, with funding following the student.

But for all of this to work, and for students to be able to move freely between home school and public school, Alberta Education needs to be given the freedom to consider prerequisites as "guidelines" and not "roadblocks." Alberta Education needs to defer to the decentralized decision making of parents and local schools, in deciding what placement within the system is best for the child at the time. And, for example, not to decide to withhold funding for the requested placement, because a student has missed a prerequisite.

For example, if parents decide that home schooling is appropriate for their daughter for grade eight, for any number of reasons, that's okay. And for the parents to decide that for their daughter to do grade nine at public school next year, that is okay too. But it would be inappropriate for Alberta Education to deny the school funding for the girl for grade nine because she does not have all the prerequisites for grade eight. After all, we are dealing with the well-being of a young girl here, and grade nine, and her well being is more important than prerequisites.

And for me, that is giving Alberta Education, "The Freedom to Serve."

P.S. Perhaps Alberta Education could invite retired senior Albertans to volunteer to mentor

the children at public schools during recess. And if they see any children, sad, dejected and

left out, be their friend. And if they see any bullying, they can stop it.