Education in Alberta

Education in Alberta

As with any Canadian province, the Alberta Legislature has (almost) exclusive authority to make laws respecting education. Since 1905 the Legislature has used this capacity to continue the model of locally elected public and separate school boards which originated prior to 1905, as well as to create and/or regulate universities, colleges, technical institutions and other educational forms and institutions (public charter schools, private schools, home schooling).


The first schools in what is now Alberta were parochial, that is, they were organized, owned and operated by Church clergy, missionaries, or authorities, both Roman Catholic and Protestant. A nominal fee was often charged for the attendance of students at these schools, and the fee was more often waived, as an act of charity or as an act of proslytizing, or as an act of local solidarity.

The first "free" school (which would now be called a public school) in what is now Alberta, was established in the hamlet of Edmonton, in the Northwest Territories, in early 1881. The school was established before the Northwest Territories had a Territorial Assembly, and before there was any law for the Territory respecting schools, or local government, or local taxation. The people of the hamlet of Edmonton elected trustees to govern the establishment and operation of the school, and submitted to an informal local taxation entirely on the basis of local solidarity.

Between 1883 and 1905 a system of education developed in Alberta by which public education was available in every community once the local population initiatied its introduction; and separate school education could be provided subsequently, provided certain conditions were met. This system, by which public education was to be universally available and separate school education available under certain conditions, was the system which the federal government of Sir Wilfrid Laurier enshrined in the constitituion of Alberta (the Alberta Act) in 1905.

There are forty-two public school jurisdictions in Alberta, and seventeen operating separate school jurisdictions. Sixteen of the operating separate school jurisdictions have a Roman Catholic electorate, and one (St. Albert) has a Protestant electorate. In addition, one Protestant separate school district, Glen Avon, survives as a ward of the St. Paul Education Region. The City of Lloydminster straddles the Alberta/Saskatchewan border, and both the public and separate school systems in that city are counted in the above numbers: both of them operate according to Saskatchewan law.

The most recent significant development in the governance of education in Alberta has been the emergence of Francophone education authorities in response to the adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982). There are five Francophone authorities in Alberta. In the south a public Francophone authority and a separate Francophone authority share co-terminous boundaries. In the north there are three authorities which provide both public and separate school education. The Francophone authorities, together, cover the province, but they are not required to provide Francophone education from place to place, except where numbers warrant, and it is the responsibility of the board of the authority to decide whether numbers warrant.

For many years the provincial government has funded the greater part of the cost of providing K - 12 education. Prior to 1994 public and separate school boards in Alberta had the legislative authority to levy a local tax on property, as supplementary support for local education. In 1994 the government of the province eliminated this right for public school boards, but not for separate school boards. Since 1994 there has continued to be a tax on property in support of K - 12 education; the difference is that the mill rate is now set by the provincial government, the money is collected by the local municipal authority and remitted to the provincial government. The relevant legislation requires that all the money raised by this property tax must go to the support of K - 12 education provided by school boards. The provincial government pools the property tax funds from across the province and distributes them, according to a formula, to public and separate school jurisdictions and Francophone authorities.

In addition to the property tax collected, the provincial government allocates money, each year, from the General Revenue Fund, for the support of K - 12 public and separate school education. In the case of the money drawn from the General Revenue Fund, it is also used to provide full financial support for charter schools, a type of public school that does not charge tuition (and receives the same funding per student that a public district school would receive). Private schools and homeschooling receive some funding, but parents will pay a substantial portion of the cost.

Public and separate school boards, charter schools, private schools, and home schoolers all follow the Program of Studies and the curriculum approved by the provincial department of education (Alberta Education). Public and separate schools, charter schools, and approved private schools all employ teachers who are certificated by Alberta Education, they administer Provincial Achievement Tests and Diploma Examinations set by Alberta Education, and they may grant high school graduation certificates endorsed by Albera Education.

Since 1994 all boards with a civil electorate (public, separate, Francophone) are funded almost entirely by the provincial government. School boards may, and many do, allow the school administration to levy fees for books and special materials, special programs or services, etc. Such fees range from $20.00/student/year (more or less) to $750.00/student/year.

Current issues for K - 12 (civil electorate) education in Alberta include, but are not limited to:
# the balance of power between school board trustees and the province
# the level of funding, which school boards tend to feel is inadequate
# disputes between the school boards and the province, over ownership and control of schools and local facilities;
# issues over who locally elected school boards, and their employees, are accountable to

Charter schools, private schools, and home schooling each have their own issues.

Approximately 600,283 students are educated in Alberta.


Alberta's oldest and largest university is Edmonton's University of Alberta. The University of Calgary, once affiliated with the University of Alberta, gained its autonomy in 1966, and is now the second largest university in Alberta. The University of Lethbridge has campuses in Calgary, Edmonton, and Lethbridge. Athabasca University focuses on distance learning.

There are 15 colleges that receive direct public funding, along with two technical institutes, NAIT and SAIT [ [ Post Secondary Education] ] . There is also a large and active private sector of post-secondary institutions, including DeVry University.

Students may also receive government loans and grants while attending selected private institutions. There has been some controversy in recent years over the rising cost of post-secondary education for students (as opposed to taxpayers). In 2005, Premier Ralph Klein made a promise that he would freeze tuition and look into ways of reducing schooling costs [ [ University of Alberta - Ralph Klein promises tuition freeze] ] . So far, no plan has been released by the Alberta government.

Alberta School Act

The School Act is the provincial law of Alberta, Canada, governing public education in Alberta at the primary and secondary levels. The Act authorizes the creation of and regulates public, separate, and Francophone school districts.

Alberta Initiative for School Improvement

The Alberta Initiative for School Improvement (AISI) is an Alberta government initiative which seeks to "improve student learning and performance by fostering initiatives that reflect the unique needs and circumstances of each school authority." [ [ Alberta Initiative for School Improvement] Official site]

ee also

*Alberta charter schools
*Higher education in Alberta
*List of Alberta school boards
*List of universities and colleges in Alberta
*Public School Boards' Association of Alberta


External links

* [ Alberta Exam Questions]
* [ Alberta Ministry of Education]
* [ Text of the School Act]

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