The Early Learning and Child Care diploma program at Red Deer College scheduled to end will return after further discussions, and a child care degree program may soon be offered.
The diploma program was to be suspended by the college in 2013 as a result of an operating grant funding cut from the Alberta government. In that provincial budget, all post-secondary institutions in the province had their operating grants cut by seven per cent.
Since then, Ella Brekke, an early childhood educator at RDC, and a committee of colleagues have been working to get the program reinstated. An online petition asking the college to reconsider its decision to suspend the program gathered steam earlier this year.
On June 16, she received an email from Alberta Premier Dave Hancock, who is also the minister for Innovation and Advanced Education. The email indicated the program should continue to be offered.
“Given the need for learner access within the region and further discussions between the ministry and college officials, the program’s delivery will be sustained,” states the email.
John Muir, Alberta Innovation and Advanced Education director of communications, confirmed Thursday that the program would not be suspended as was originally intended.
“We did hear from them that the college had intended to cease offering the program,” said Muir.
“But we did work with them when we were notified to evaluate some of the needs in Red Deer and in Central Alberta for occupations like this.
“Based on demand, that program will continue.”
The college’s 2014-15 academic calendar indicated the program was suspended, but the decision to reinstate the program will change that.
Joel Ward, RDC president and CEO, said the provincial government has come up with the money to fund the diploma program’s continuation.
On top of the return of the diploma program for next year, the college has been in talks with Mount Royal University to offer a four-year early learning and child care degree program. Ward said students would take the first-year certificate, the second-year diploma and have the choice to continue for two more years towards a degree. Students would be able to take years three and four at Red Deer College.
The degree could be offered as early as this fall, but the college is still negotiating funding of the degree program with the province.
He said the decision to reinstate the program came after a collaborative look at the needs of the area.
The email goes on to say, “Early childhood development is part of a focused agenda to ensure the health and well-being, safety and education of all children in Alberta. Access to high-quality early learning and child care programs and services is an important part of this commitment.”
The college does have a one-year certificate program that it kept after the cuts. The diploma program was offered after completion of the certificate program, and added a year to a student’s education. It included 500 practicum hours.
Brekke said students learned many skills in that second year, including how to plan a developmentally appropriate curriculum, develop and understand individual program plans for children with exceptionalities, and how to work in the different styles of programs available for parents and children in the community.
A meeting between the committee and college officials, including Ward and Brad Donaldson, RDC VP Academic, is scheduled for June 27.