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December 19, 2011

Rural Adult Learning Boosted by RADF and NorQuest College

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From The Leduc Rep; By Dave Lazzarino:

A project meant to allow more adults in rural areas to update their education has received an injection of funds to get it going.

The Rural Alberta Development Fund (RADF) has given $3.2 million toward the development of education outreach programs.

"Through this project, NorQuest College will enhance the quality and consistency of learning opportunities for rural learners," said Evan Berger, minister of agriculture and rural development in a recent press release. "Without leaving their communities, individuals will benefit from programming tailored specifically to their needs while building knowledge and skills within their communities."

The RADF was given $100 million by the provincial government to act as an arm’s length organization committed to giving that money to rural Alberta projects.

"Education is one of the pillars that we focus on, particularly rural education, because the majority of our projects are focusing on economic growth and capacity so this was a good fit to have an impact in central Alberta," said Gitte Sorensen, communications and program co-ordinator for the RADF. "All of our projects go through a process that we feel is going to have a strong impact on rural Alberta."

According to Patti Lefebvre, dean of the faculty of foundational and intercultural studies at Norquest College, in 2009 the Ministry of Advanced Education and Technology set out a mandate for the province and named a handful of community colleges to bridge the informal and formal learning systems in those communities.

The informal systems include literacy groups and tutoring for adults and they have already taken root in many places. It was the formal aspect of schooling that Norquest was charged to approach.

"What’s difficult is when do students break into formal programming, when are they ready for it, and how do those tutor programs and volunteer organizations know when students can ladder in?" Lefebvre explained. "With the increase in online learning, we’ve had huge success from Grades 10 to 12 but it’s very difficult for foundational learners."

She explained that without some basic skills to connect to those online, self-directed learning methods, it is difficult to advance. The program was developed to target the Grades 7 to 9 adult learners.

"It is about creating a model or an approach to how we co-ordinate the regional stewardship learning," she said. "When there is a support in the community helping to support a formal model, that’s the ideal condition."

Read the rest of the article here.

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