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Canada: Alberta

Overview

Located in North America, Canada is comprised of ten provinces and three territories. It is the world's second largest country in geographic size, yet its population is over 32,805,000 - slightly less than that of California. In terms of its natural resources, Canada is the world's second richest country on a per-capita basis, behind Australia.

Most of the population lives in the southern part of the country, and over 75 percent live in metropolitan areas. Among the largest cities are: Toronto, Ontario; Montréal, Québec; Vancouver, British Columbia; Ottawa, Ontario; Hull, Québec; and Edmonton, Alberta.

Canada's indigenous population is referred to as the Indians or First Nations. In fact, Canada is an Iroquis word for "community." French and English are the country's official languages, reflecting the Canada's early colonial history. Since the second half of the 18th century when the British ousted France from Canada, the country's main political and ethnic ties have been with the United Kingdom. Increased immigration from Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries boosted Canada's ethnic diversity, and since the 1970s, most immigrants have come from Asia.

Canada gained full independence in 1931, although it still is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. It is both a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. Canada's official head of state is Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, although its citizens directly elect legislatures at the federal, provincial and territorial levels.

Alberta is located in western Canada, and was formed from four districts of the Northwest Territories in 1905. The capital is Edmonton. In the 1990s, high oil prices and the growth of new industries helped make the Province of Alberta's economy one of the strongest in Canada. The province invests heavily in education and training, some $5.5 billion each year, with more than $400 million available for student financial assistance.


Education

Education in Canada is almost exclusively the responsibility of each province and territory. As in all provinces, the Alberta legislature at Edmonton exercises extensive authority over education, creating, funding, and/or regulating primary/secondary education, universities, colleges, technical institutions and other forms of instruction (public charter schools, accredited private schools, home schooling). Separate boards administer church-sponsored schools.

More than half the 3.2 million citizens of Alberta Province are under 30 years of age, making it one of the youngest communities in the world. Ninety percent of the population finishes high school, 25% is currently in school, and by age 24, 75% of high school graduates hold or are working towards higher education credentials.

Currently, Alberta's Ministry of Education oversees secondary education while the Ministry of Advanced Education oversees higher education.

Primary and Secondary Education

The duration of compulsory education is from age 6 to 15, through junior secondary. Elementary education lasts for 6 years from age 6 to 12. Junior secondary education lasts for 3 years from ages 12 to 15. Senior secondary education lasts for 3 years from age 15 to 18. The diploma awarded is the High School Diploma.

Post-Secondary Education

Alberta has four publicly-funded universities, a specialized learning centre in Banff, four vocational colleges, 11 public colleges, two technical institutes, four private university colleges with accredited degree programs and 141 licensed private vocational schools. Four consortia, made up of various public post-secondary institutions, offer credit programs to remote communities. In addition, about 85 community adult learning councils provide primarily non-credit courses to more than 600 communities across the province.

The Province’s oldest and largest university is the University of Alberta at Edmonton. The University of Calgary, once affiliated with U Alberta, gained autonomy in 1966, and is now the second largest in the province. Others are the University of Lethbridge and Athabasca University, which focuses on distance learning. Fifteen colleges receive direct public funding, along with two technical schools, Northern and Southern Alberta Institutes of Technology (NAIT and SAIT). Students may receive government loans and grants while attending selected private as well as public institutions. The academic year runs September to June, and languages of instruction are English and French.

First Cycle

The University level first stage is the Baccalaureate Degree. Most undergraduate study leads to a "General" (Pass) Bachelor's Degree or an "Honours" or specialized degree (4 years and prescribed subject concentration). Degrees are normally titled in broad descriptive groups, e.g. B.A. and B.Sc. The first stage also includes undergraduate Diplomas (1-3 years of study) and short (up to one year) special Certificate programs; these may enable entry to degree programs and are frequently given in close cooperation with professional bodies. In addition, the first stage includes other professional programs that typically require no university-level prerequisites and four years of study, for example the Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.), also first- and second-year university transfer programs offered by seven provincially-supported community colleges.

Second Cycle

The University level second stage is the Masters Degree/First Professional Degree. The Master's Degree normally requires at least one year's study after an Honours Bachelor's Degree or equivalent. Some Master's programs, e.g. in Business Administration, last for 2 years. A thesis is usually required, often course work as well. Besides graduate level diplomas (considered as intermediate between the Bachelor's or first professional degree and the Master's Degree), the second stage also includes first professional degree programs requiring prerequisite university studies -- followed by perhaps three years for a Bachelor of Law (LL.B.) while others, e.g. Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.) normally require 4 years.

Third Cycle

The University level third stage is the Doctorate Degree. The Doctorate is the highest academic qualification awarded by Canadian universities and (in all provinces except Quebec) it comprises the third stage of university-level studies. This degree normally requires at least 3 years of study after the Bachelor's Degree; the submission and defense of a major thesis (dissertation) are the principal requirements, and supplemental course work is usually also required. The degree "Doctor of Philosophy" (Ph.D.) is the designation most commonly used to signify the Doctorate. It is a generic title, applicable to degrees in most disciplines (the Doctorate should not be confused with certain first professional degrees in the Health Sciences, e.g. Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and Dentistry).

Teacher Training

For training of pre-primary and primary/basic school teachers, certificate and diploma programs in Early Childhood Education or Early Childhood Development prepare individuals for employment in settings where pre-school child-care is provided. Possession of one or more of these credentials is key to determining the level of responsibility in the delivery of early childhood education programs. Professional certification requires completion of a B.Ed. Degree (4 years) or its equivalent at an acceptable university. An interim certificate is valid for 3 years, and made permanent upon completion of a minimum of 2 years of successful teaching. In Alberta, five degree-granting institutions offer teacher preparation programs culminating in the Bachelor of Education degree. It varies in length from 4 years to 6 years. Some provide for the earning of a non-Bachelor of Education degree simultaneously with the Bachelor of Education degree. Others require the completion of a non-Bachelor of Education degree before admission to and completion of the Bachelor of Education degree. One-year certificate programs prepare classroom assistants to provide teachers with a wide array of learner support services in the day-to-day teaching/learning process of basic learning.

Prospective teachers both at the primary and secondary school level may register for the 4-year Bachelor of Education degree course, offered by the Universities of Alberta and Calgary. There is a B.Ed (after degree) offered by the King's University College and Concordia University College of Alberta. The entrance requirement is High School Graduation. A professional Certificate requires a B.Ed. degree (4 years), or 4 years of university training inclusive of an approved degree and one year of professional teacher education from an acceptable institution. An interim Certificate is valid for three years, and made permanent upon completion of two years of successful teaching.


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