Education and the Federal government

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Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier

The Fraser Institute has released its rating of Quebec high schools for 2014.  Except for the few top schools, principals, teachers and school
administrators will be under pressure to improve the standing of their

Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier

The Fraser Institute has released its rating of Quebec high schools for 2014.  Except for the few top schools, principals, teachers and school
administrators will be under pressure to improve the standing of their
particular institution.  However, as Janice Gross Stein demonstrated in her 2001 Massey Lectures, The Cult of Efficiency, the Fraser Institute ratings correlate directly with the socio-economic measures of the community that the students come from.
The most immediate inference from this observation is that significant improvements in a school’s rating must come primarily from the community and the government services that aid the community, especially its least fortunate members.  Without this community and
government support, the efforts of the best principals and teachers will be limited.  And increasingly, governments are taking control of educational resources and pedagogical content of education
delivered at the local level.  So, the conclusion is
that more government resources must be directed to those communities that are lower on the socio-economic scale if improvements in educational results are to be made.
However, this is not the direction of the Harper government.  Over the past several budgets, a number of agencies and support groups concerned with adult literacy have had their budgets cut.  Among these agencies are: Laubach Canada, Canadian Literacy and Learning Network (CLLN), Connecting Canadians With Learning (COPIAN), and many other national, regional and local groups.  The federal government’s job creation plans are aimed at those workers who already have trades certification or university education.  It completely ignores the fifteen to twenty percent of the adult working population who need basic literacy and numeracy skills to be able to effectively participate in the workforce.  Further, this emphasis on training for existing trades fails to provide for more flexibility and continuous learning needed to meet challenges that new
technologies are forcing on the labor market.
This failure of the Harper government’s policy on education is further illustrated by recent OECD and EU studies.  The OECD study of adult skills shows Canada in a weak middle position and not improving.  In the meantime, the EU has recognized the problem of adult illiteracy and has engaged in a major effort to improve the educational skills with the aim of developing a flexible, knowledgeable workforce that is tuned to continuous learning and workplace change.
Fortunately, there are dedicated volunteers, teachers and school principals who are working to improve the educational levels of the adult population in Canada.  However, before the public demand improved ratings for the high schools in their community, they should examine carefully the real issues behind the numbers.  Such an examination would indicate that real improvements must come from a change in federal and provincial policies rather than changes of teachers, high school principals and administrators.  Only then can we look for real improvements.