COVER STORY: New Learning Ministry

By Collin Gallant

Student leaders fear their concerns will be unheard under the banner of the hulking new "Superministry" of Learning.

Announced at last Wednesday’s Alberta Government cabinet shuffle, the new ministry will amalgamate kindergarten to post-secondary education into one portfolio, with former Minister of Family and Social Services Lyle Oberg (right) at the helm. Oberg’s new Ministry of Learning (previously the ministries of education, and Advanced Education and Career Development) will deal with all education concerns.

The University of Calgary Students’ Union expressed fear that advanced education may become secondary to aspects of the old Education portfolio, which handled education from kindergarten to grade 12.

"The university student voice may disappear in the equation," said U of C SU Vice-president External Nassr Awada in a press release, which outlined su concerns that K-12 demands may monopolize the ministry’s resources.

"Creating such a huge portfolio will probably mean more competition for attention and less consultation with the minister," said Awada.

The reorganization of departments met with mixed reaction from academics.

U of C President Terry White commented one possible scenario had Advanced Education joining with the Department of Innovation and Science.

"We would have preferred to be grouped with [the] Innovation and Science [Ministry] because that is a little closer to [the university’s] concerns," said White, citing the recent retooling of the U of C’s Computer Science Department as an example. "We’ll have to learn to articulate our needs and how they differentiate from K-12."

Oberg was unavailable for comment.

The Hon. Lyle Oberg, Member of the Legislative Assembly for Strathmore-Brooks, was until recently a practicing family physician residing in Brooks. He attended Red Deer College in the 1970s, undertaking his doctorate of medicine at the University of Alberta, which he received in 1983.

Former Minister of Advanced Education and Career Development Clint Dunford will become Minister of Human Resources and Employment, which now encompasses the career development aspects of his previous portfolio.

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