Prepared by Helen McKenzie
Political and Social Affairs Division
ROLE OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
Official Languages in Education
Quality of Education
Mathematics and Science Education
FOR THE FUTURE
As the basis of wealth in
developed nations shifts from natural resources and manufacturing to knowledge,
achieving higher levels of popular education becomes increasingly important.
In Canada, as in many other countries, there is concern that the existing
education systems are not adequately meeting the challenges of the complex
modern world. This concern persists, despite the fact that Canada's post-secondary
enrolment rates are among the highest in the world.
The average number of years
of schooling of adult Canadians increased steadily during the past few
decades; between 1971 and 1986, the percentage of Canadians aged 15 or
older with a university degree doubled, from 4.8% to 9.6%.(1)
Encouraging as these facts may be, there is nevertheless a popular perception
that the quality of education has been eroded, that many students graduating
from high school are not adequately prepared in fundamental aspects of
learning, and that many university graduates may not be well enough equipped
to compete internationally. There are continuing problems relating to
the accessibility of higher education for some individuals, and growing
financial challenges for institutions and students.
Concerns relate to the whole
continuum of formal learning systems, from primary schools to universities.
Weaknesses in the quality of primary and secondary education are reflected
in, for example, the incidence of functional illiteracy among high school
students and graduates, the frequency with which students drop out of
programs, and the perceived inadequacy of the teaching of mathematics
In spite of high university
enrolment rates, post-secondary education remains inaccessible to some
disadvantaged groups. There is also a growing public anxiety that higher
levels of learning will be generally restricted in future as a result
of declining financial support from governments and increasing costs to
Many educators and employers,
concerned with the quality of education and need for consistency across
the country, have urged the implementation of national guidelines and
reforms and interprovincial standardization. Some state that the goals
of formal education must be clarified before any overall strategy can
succeed. Others advocate a mechanism for strong central direction, so
that Canada can keep pace with international trends and market-place requirements.
Many argue for greater financial support from the federal government.
provisions, however, place education within provincial jurisdiction. Progressive
change, therefore, can be achieved in this context only through a national
strategy designed in a spirit of cooperative federalism. This paper briefly
discusses the practice, responsibilities and limitations of the federal
government in educational matters, and some of the major public concerns
with respect to accessibility, quality and funding.
ROLE OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
Although the Constitution
places education within provincial jurisdiction, it has long been recognized
that its economic implications have made it also a matter of serious concern
to the federal government. In 1965, the Economic Council of Canada reported
that about one-quarter of the real growth in personal income over the
previous decades resulted from higher levels of education.(2)
Since that time, many economic and societal changes have created needs
for new directions in learning.
This country, unlike many
others, does not look to a central bureau of education for guidance in
the development and pursuance of a national strategy; instead, 10 distinct
provincial and territorial education systems have developed which discuss
common interests in a unique institution, the Council of Ministers of
Education Canada (CMEC). This has played a pivotal role in the cooperative
development of policies to meet some of the changing needs of education
in Canada and to encourage progress toward its standardization and improvement.
The continuance of cooperative
efforts is essential for the future. One educator has identified the crisis
of Canadian federalism as the most important issue affecting higher education
today. How Canada and the provinces respond to this crisis will affect
the future of higher education and Canada's ability to meet the challenges
of international competition. The same commentator has suggested the establishment
of a quasi-governmental mechanism to develop institutional performance
indicators and to analyze national policy issues.(3)
The federal government,
however, plays a crucial role in some aspects of education, providing
financial support touching all levels of learning, both directly, for
specific and limited purposes, and indirectly, through grants to provincial
and territorial governments for higher education.
Canada has direct responsibility,
for example, for the provision of education for armed services personnel,
penitentiary inmates, and registered Native Canadians. The central government's
participation in educational efforts has been linked to the national interest
in defence, corrections, immigration, and vocational and second language
training. Federal support is provided for university research, student
assistance, official languages education, and miscellaneous other programs,
such as Canadian studies, literacy training, and international education.
The central government's
greatest impact on education has perhaps been through its role as provider
of indirect funding under the Established Programs Financing (EPF) arrangements
and the Official Languages in Education Program, whereby unconditional
EPF transfers go annually to the provinces for health services and post-secondary
In 1992-93, federal government
overall expenditures in support of education and training in Canada were
estimated at about $12.2 billion. The total combined support for all levels
of education from government (federal, provincial and local) and non-government
sources was estimated at $55.3 billion.(4)
The public financial investment
in education appears to have produced only mediocre results from the labour-market
standpoint, according to some indicators of performance.(5)
Clearly, what is important is not only the amount of expenditures but
how they are used.
Some experts have criticized
the system of federal EPF transfers to the provinces, made without directions
or guidelines, as lacking in purpose and effectiveness. They stress the
need for consensus on the goals of education in Canada, for clarification
of the federal government's role and for appropriate institutional structures
to balance the demands of the labour market with the interests of individual
students and the goal of the pursuit of knowledge, both general and research-related.(6)
Speakers at the 1987 National Forum discussed the accessibility, quality
and financing of education in a situation where institutions, disciplines
and interest groups tend to compete for dwindling financial resources
without the benefit of a clearly defined purpose.
In spite of Canada's establishment
of a network of public education systems with wide accessibility, questions
have arisen about their focus, quality and effectiveness. Why, for example,
do large numbers of high school students choose to discontinue their studies?
How extensive and effective are programs offering work-related training
for those who do not attend university?
In its 1992 study, "Education
and Training in Canada," the Economic Council of Canada concluded
that many young Canadians are not well served by their education system
and that the 70% of school leavers who do not go on to university lack
pragmatic technical and vocational programs to prepare them for the workforce.
Canada's school system does not have non-academic, vocational programs
as an optional study path or an appropriate strategy to help students
to make a successful transition from school to the workplace.
The demand for programs
directed toward labour-market requirements may be expected to continue
to grow in the coming years. Labour-market reviews have shown that employers
increasingly require more educated and flexible workers. The results of
a social survey published in 1992 indicated that of about 14% of the workforce
enrolled in an educational program leading to a degree, diploma or certificate,
about half were taking courses to improve or change their careers.(7)
Important as it is, preparation
for the labour force is only one of several objectives of a mature education
system. Though the emphasis appears to have shifted in recent years toward
economic considerations, the traditional ideals of the civilizing, socializing,
and inspiring nature of education persist. The most appropriate goals
to an extent, therefore, remain open to interpretation. There is, nevertheless,
a general expectation that education should be reasonably accessible and
of good quality, while addressing the most important needs of young people
and the society in which they live. In addition, there is a growing awareness
of the practical necessity for education systems to be not only effective,
but efficient in terms of cost.
Elementary and secondary
schooling are available free to all Canadian children, and greater numbers
of students than ever are achieving high school graduation and attending
universities. Full-time enrolment in post-secondary institutions more
than quadrupled between 1960 and 1985, partly as the result of the growth,
for a period, in the 18-24 age group but also, particularly in the 1970s,
because there was a marked increase in the number of women participating
in higher education.
During the 1980s, full-time
university enrolment increased annually, reaching 532,100 in 1990-91,
a growth of 39% from 1980-81. The median number of years of schooling
of adult Canadians increased from 11.3 in 1976 to 12.2 in 1986.(8)
Although the 18-24 age group
declined as a percentage of the population in the past decade, university
enrolment continued to increase. In 1991, about 14% of the Canadian labour
force consisted of individuals with a university degree, while in 1993,
53% had some post-secondary education.(9)
An international report based on 1988 data revealed that of the countries
studied, Canada had the highest proportion of youth between 20 and 24
enrolled in colleges and universities.(10)
In 1991-92, there were 1.4 million post-secondary students (full- and
part-time) in this country. The number of full-time students was higher
than ever, reaching nearly 548,000 in universities and almost 331,000
in community colleges.(11)
Some, including people living
in poverty, residents of isolated and northern regions, and disabled students,
still face obstacles to higher education. There are indications, as well,
that the future accessibility of higher education for many other individuals
is at risk as a result of tightening economic constraints and restricted
government funding. Tuition fees and other university costs are increasing
at the same time as students are having more difficulty in finding employment
to finance their studies.
There is some reason for
hope that the private sector, recognizing its stake in higher education,
will develop new means to assist students. One bank, for example, is reported
to have introduced an arrangement for student loans at a discount rate,
with repayments other than interest starting only six months after graduation.(12)
The public sector, however, remains the main source of student assistance
and the federal government is planning reforms to student aid as part
of its program restructuring.
1. Student Loans
The Canada Student Loans
Plan (CSLP) has been a major facilitating factor in the growth of post-secondary
enrolment over the past three decades. Introduced in 1964, the plan superseded
the more limited Dominion-Provincial Student Aid Program of 1939, for
students of high academic merit. Under the CSLP, the federal government
assumed responsibility for providing guaranteed loans to all qualifying
applicants with demonstrated need, with the plan administered on a provincial
basis. Quebec, and later the Northwest Territories, opted out of joint
federal-provincial arrangements, establishing their own programs with
parallel funding from the central government.
The CSLP has been described
as a model of intergovernmental accommodation, an example of the operation
of federalism at its best, with both national and provincial constitutional
jurisdictions "respected and blended."(13)
Developments in recent years, however, have raised questions about the
plan's capacity to continue to make higher education accessible in the
future. Revisions of the plan appear to be essential if the needs of students
are to be met. The weekly loan limits, for example, have become unrealistically
low in the face of rising tuition and other student costs. There is also
a need for more consideration of the needs of part-time students, who
account for almost one third of university enrolments.
Tuition fees at Canadian
universities increased by 40% to 80% between 1985-86 and 1991-92. For
undergraduate arts students, fees for 1992-1993 increased by 5% to 10%
from the previous academic year, and for 1993-1994, by an average of 9%.
These fees varied among institutions and provinces, and ranged from about
$1,300 to $3,500 in 1992-1993.(14)
It is expected that fees will continue to rise as universities attempt
to cope with increasing expenses and restricted government support. The
reasonable accessibility of higher education in the future, therefore,
rests partly with a revised student loans plan.
Proposals for a new plan,
with repayment based on earnings after graduation, were suggested by committees
in the past as a cost-effective means of providing education support.
In its 1991 Report, the Commission of Inquiry on Canadian University Education
recommended replacement of the existing program with a new Income-Contingent
Repayment Student Assistance Plan. It would make loans widely accessible,
and repayable as a surtax on federal income tax when the borrower's income
reached a certain level; thus, by linking repayment to earnings, the loan
conditions would not be too onerous in the years after graduation.
The Canadian Federation
of Students (CFS) has criticized this plan on the grounds that the financial
burden of loans and their repayment would be distributed unevenly among
students, depending on their future earnings, and would weigh most heavily
on those with modest resources. Such a plan, the Federation warned in
1993, would threaten public post-secondary education as Canadians know
it. The CFS has recommended instead the establishment of a national system
of student grants to ensure equality of access to financial assistance.(15)
The Canadian Association
of University Teachers (CAUT) has also called for more grants and bursaries
rather than emphasis on student loans. The Association of Universities
and Colleges of Canada has taken the position that loan limits should
be increased and repayment made more flexible, and that a second income-contingent,
repayment loan program for tuition assistance should be established.(16)
In the spring of 1994, the federal government announced its intention
to improve the student loans system.
The issue of accessibility,
however, goes beyond plans for student loans or grants programs. The Economic
Council of Canada, having noted the increased participation in post-secondary
learning, concluded in a research report published in 1992 that, while
"there is no pressing need to seek to increase the access of the
majority of Canadians to higher education," some targeted programs
may be appropriate. It warned that for many, "the goal of post-secondary
attendance may in fact have been set aside even before a student entered
The school experience of
children from low-income families, crucial in influencing their interest
in and aptitude for higher education, may differ greatly among various
groups. The particular problems of children who are handicapped and those
from low-income, minority language or immigrant families, as well as the
technological and other major changes in society, illustrate the need
for flexibility and diversification in the provision of education.
2. Diverse Needs
Rapid technological developments,
changing workplace requirements and our complex bilingual and multicultural
society all create demands for a wider range of educational programs.
An increasingly mobile workforce
must also deal with the persisting provincial differences in requirements
and course material, teaching methods and age of mandatory school attendance.
Even greater differences exist at the university level, where students
often experience difficulties in transferring from one autonomous institution
to another. The CMEC has for some years encouraged cooperative efforts
to minimize the problems of students who move from one jurisdiction to
another, but some problems remain.
Public education has been
broadened over the years to include opportunities for students to achieve
computer literacy, to learn and study in either official language, and
to acquire a broad range of knowledge, but the accessibility of such opportunities
varies across the country and is limited by financial constraints.
a. Computer Education
Technological change has
created a need for a new kind of learning, "computer literacy,"
and has introduced new methods of program delivery. Computer competence
has become an educational goal recognized by the inclusion of relevant
programs in school curricula. These programs, however, are not yet extensive
enough to meet all demands.
Canada's Steering Group
on Prosperity recommended in 1992 that the use of information technologies
in learning be expanded, that the number of computers in schools be increased
by 30% annually, that teachers be trained to use computers in their instruction,
and that the use of computer-based approaches in literacy and skills upgrading
b. Official Languages
The federal government provides
cost-sharing support for education in the language of the official language
minorities and for opportunities to learn a second official language.
More than 2,000 public schools across Canada now offer French immersion
classes. Often, however, the choice of subjects offered at the secondary
level is limited and competent teachers are in short supply. Federal spending
priorities in recent years have also included the expansion of post-secondary
services in French and appropriate teacher-education programs. The quality
and accessibility of second language education, however, is uneven across
c. Special Needs
Although education has become
widely accessible, obstacles to full participation persist for, among
others, students who are geographically isolated, members of many aboriginal
communities, learners with disabilities, and children of immigrants with
little knowledge of either official language.
One of the most challenging
problems for Canadian education systems has been to find ways to accommodate
students in the northern regions of the country, which include about half
of the land area but only about 1% of the population. The development
of distance education methods has greatly extended opportunities in these
regions, but the potential of these methods has not yet been fully achieved.
The success of native children
in the school systems has also been hindered in the past by the lack of
aboriginal teachers and the absence of culturally relevant material and
language in educational programs. A variety of measures have been implemented
to help raise the achievement levels of these children while assisting
them to maintain their cultural and linguistic heritage. In the Yukon,
for example, native language instruction is offered during the first six
years of schooling. Progress is also being made in native participation
in program development as aboriginal communities across Canada assume
greater control of their own education systems.
Federal funding has assisted
in the post-secondary education of registered Indians and in the establishment
of culturally relevant programs such as those at the Saskatchewan Indian
Federated College, the first aboriginal-controlled, post-secondary institution
in North America.(19)
The January 1994 Throne Speech promised that additional funds would be
made available for post-secondary education for First Nations people.
In recent years, many schools,
particularly in metropolitan areas, have received large numbers of immigrant
students who have little knowledge of either official language. The flexibility
of systems and the ingenuity of teachers are challenged to find ways to
meet the needs of these students while maintaining established standards.
Provincial and municipal education authorities have attempted to accommodate
multicultural diversity by monitoring educational materials for bias and
by developing new resource materials with multicultural themes and strategies
to train teachers to implement these concepts in the classroom. Providing
adequate language training for immigrant students, however, remains an
immediate and essential concern, to which some schools are developing
All provinces have made
efforts to make education more accessible to students with physical or
developmental disabilities. Some jurisdictions have attempted to integrate
most special needs students into the public schools, although it has been
suggested that discussion of the quality of their education, a crucially
important issue for these groups, as it is for all students, has been
Quality of Education
In recent years, the quality
of education in Canada has been questioned on several fronts. Some educators,
employers, and others, have expressed concern that it has been eroded,
and that the existing systems are not adequate to maintain this nation's
competitive position in the modern technological world.
This concern extends to
all levels of education. Researchers for the Economic Council of Canada
examined the quality of Canadian education in recent decades. They found
that comparable data on Grades 4 and 8 achievement levels in 1966, 1973,
1980 and 1991 demonstrated "a deterioration between 1966 and 1973,
a minor improvement between 1973 and 1980, and then another decline (to
about the 1973 level) between 1980 and 1991."(21)
A basic skills survey of Grade 8 students indicated that, although funding
levels for education had increased, the performance of students had declined
between 1966 and 1991.(22)
The Council likened schooling
in Canada to a monopolistic industry, where less attention is paid to
the quality of its product than would be the case in a competitive situation.
Public concern has resulted in the reconsideration of education systems
and efforts to reform them. During the past six years, most provinces
and the territories have recognized the seriousness of problems relating
to quality, including the high incidence of "dropping out" by
high school students and the functional illiteracy of some senior students
Some claim that child-centred
teaching methods widely adopted to encourage creativity and interest in
learning ignore the pursuit of excellence and risk neglecting the development
of basic skills. Some provinces, taking a "back to basics" approach,
have increased their emphasis on the teaching of core subjects and on
testing. Others continue to view child-centred policies as the most appropriate
approach to modern education.
Concerns about quality,
however, must be considered together with those relating to equality of
opportunity for students of different backgrounds or capabilities. With
respect to class organization, for example, the tendency in the past was
to keep students in the same type of schools but to divide them according
to their demonstrated and perceived capabilities into different groups
following advanced, general or basic programs of studies. This process
is referred to as streaming.
Some educators believe that
many students feel stigmatized by the process of streaming and are thereby
encouraged to drop out of school. Ideas of equality and inclusion have
prompted recent efforts to discard streaming practices. Ontario, for example,
de-streamed Grade 9 in 1993 as part of its new curriculum. Opponents of
de-streaming, however, have argued that such measures may threaten the
quality of education of the majority and the motivation of those students
with the greatest potential.
While its relationship to
the streaming process may be debated, the motivation of the student is
essential for success in education. The Economic Council noted that motivation
is critical for achievement, which in itself is a vital motivator.(23)
1. School Dropouts
The numbers of students
who leave high school before graduation prompt us to question the quality
of education in Canada. A Statistics Canada Survey in 1991 indicated a
dropout rate of about 18% (22% for males and 14% for females).(24)
In this survey of more than 9,000 youths aged 18 to 20, school-related
factors, including boredom, were the most important reasons given for
leaving school. In an earlier national survey, high school dropouts had
frequently cited the lack of motivation and boredom.(25)
The 1991 study found that
the early school leavers were not necessarily low achievers; 37% of them
had A or B averages, and 40% had passing C grades. Their early departure,
therefore, reflects a failure on the part of the existing systems to encourage
and develop the potential learning capacity of many promising students
who are therefore not equipped to succeed in the modern labour market.
Without further education or training, they will be severely disadvantaged
in the future, when about 40% of employment opportunities may be expected
to require more than 16 years of education and training.(26)
Dropping out of school carries
serious economic costs, not only to the individual but to the nation.
Early leavers forgo the potential for increased earnings that graduation
brings. The national cost is also high. Data on the 137,000 students who
dropped out of school in 1989 suggest that the high school dropouts of
one year cost the country more than $4 billion over their collective
The challenge for educators
and planners is to encourage positive attitudes toward education, and
to provide learning systems that are effective and interesting. New approaches
to teaching, such as cooperative education, provide some hope in this
respect. In these programs, classroom theory is combined with work-related
experience whereby students can acquire an increased awareness of workforce
requirements and develop appropriate skills. Such "co-op" programs
could help organized learning to seem more relevant to the lives of many
The persistence of varying
degrees of illiteracy in our society also prompts doubts about the quality
of our education systems. This problem is often related to early school
leaving, but there are also indications of functional illiteracy among
surprising numbers of high school graduates and even among individuals
with some post-secondary education.
Illiteracy became a major
issue of concern in Canada in 1987 when it was reported that about five
million Canadian adults were "functionally illiterate"; that
is, they did not have reading or numeracy skills adequate to carry out
During the 1980s, the unemployment
rate of Canadian workers with fewer than the nine years of schooling generally
considered essential to acquire functional literacy increased steadily;
in 1990, it was 1.5 times the overall rate. Poor literacy skills are associated
with unemployment, increase the difficulty of finding jobs and constitute
a barrier to retraining.
The problem of illiteracy
is complex and its extent in the population is difficult to measure. The
Economic Council of Canada in 1992 reported that nearly one quarter of
young Canadians were functionally illiterate and predicted that, without
change, one million more handicapped in this way would be leaving school
for the work force by the year 2000.(29)
The Council warned that this situation threatens Canada's ability to compete
Provincial governments have
taken measures to identify literacy problems and improve their schooling
systems. With provincial cooperation, the CMEC has been working toward
the establishment of Canadian educational achievement indicators and standards.
As part of a national testing program, the School Achievement Indicators
Program, the reading and writing skills of students aged 13 and 16 will
be assessed during 1994. Other important aspects of education include
mathematics and science.
3. Mathematics and Science
There are indications that
mathematics and science, vitally important aspects of learning, are not
dealt with adequately in Canadian schools. A survey of scientific literacy
in 1990 indicated that most adults in this country had only a scant knowledge
of science.(30) The fact
that Canada has fewer engineers per capita than the United States or Japan
may reflect the degree of emphasis this country has placed on science
A 1991 study found that
nearly four out of ten Canadian adults were unable to do mathematical
tasks or to follow complex written instructions. These inabilities are
ominous; if Canadians are to adjust to changing market demands and international
competition, they will need "the ability to apply scientific and
mathematical principles in the workplace (and) to operate comfortably
in a technological environment."(31)
In international comparisons
of student achievement in science and mathematics, Canadian children at
age 10 compared favourably with those of most other industrialized countries;
however, by the time they had completed secondary school they had fallen
Two international assessments
of educational progress in 1991 indicated that at age 13 Canadian mathematics
students ranked only ninth among students from 15 countries, although
Canadian spending on education was relatively high. A 1993 national test
of mathematics confirmed that, with variation among the provinces, Canadian
students achieved on average only moderate success.
The studies suggest that
a root cause of this mediocre rating is the lack of specialist teachers;
only 31% of the Canadian schools had teachers specializing in mathematics.
Moreover, Canada placed only 14th with respect to the percentage of schools
with teachers dedicated to teaching science most or all of the time.(33)
More attention must be paid
to these disciplines and to the qualifications and capabilities of science
and mathematics teachers. Skilful teaching in the earliest grades encourages
the pursuit of these subjects throughout the school years. In Japan, where
primary school students have generally performed well in these areas,
the teachers are drawn from university graduates with high achievement
levels in these specialties.
In Canada's universities,
insufficient funding appears to contribute to lack of achievement in the
sciences. Representations made in 1991 to the Commission of Inquiry on
Canadian University Education warned that the lack of funds for modern
equipment and laboratory courses was "a serious impediment to preparing
students for the workplace."(34)
While there are growing
concerns in Canada about the quality of education in mathematics and science,
there are also shortcomings in education with respect to Canadian society,
its history and development.
4. Canadian Studies
Education is more than a
preparation for the workplace and a means to an economic end. In Canada,
as in every other country, some knowledge of national history, geography,
culture, and social issues is regarded as a necessary preparation for
good citizenship, as a means of promoting national unity, and as a basis
for self-development and for understanding this society and others. The
Commission of Inquiry on Canadian University Education observed that historical
consciousness is one of the accepted goals of higher education. Many students,
however, graduate from university with only a very slight acquaintance
with history and the social sciences.
There are indications that
courses on Canadian history and government are often taught only superficially,
and differently in various parts of the country, while social studies
teachers are often not qualified to teach in that discipline.(35)
Nor, it seems, are these
subjects or the field of education given much greater emphasis in institutions
of higher learning. Indeed, in Canada's universities, the only two undergraduate
areas that declined in relative numbers of students between 1970 and 1985
were education and the humanities.(36)
The CAUT has warned that
the importance of the social sciences and humanities should not be underestimated.
Noting that these studies, which help us to interpret the social and cultural
impact of technological progress, have long been "the poor relation"
in terms of federal funding, the Association urged that this situation
be rectified. "We must also know ourselves our history, literature,
philosophy if we are to have the self-confidence to compete as
an equal player in the world economy."(37)
5. International Education
The OECD has declared that
"internationalization," a process of integrating an international
dimension into university functions, should be the new emphasis in higher
education. Among other things, this process calls for curriculum changes
to incorporate the experiences and knowledge sources of other countries
and give students the opportunity to become "globally literate citizens."
In recent years, some Canadian universities have been working toward this
The largest portion of total
spending on education is done at the elementary-secondary level, with
provincial governments the largest direct source of funding. The major
portion of federal support for post-secondary education is through the
EPF, whereby funds are transferred unconditionally to the provinces and
territories. In 1990-91, a five-year freeze on per capita transfer payments
began, resulting in a 7.7% drop in cash transfers that year. The federal
government in effect reduced its financial commitment to post-secondary
In 1991, Canada spent 7.4%
of its GDP on education, all levels included, compared with an OECD average
of 6.1%. Earlier international comparisons had indicated that the level
of education funding in this country to be one of the highest in the world,
but a 1992 report of the Economic Council suggests that the perception
of Canada as free-spending in the area of education should be modified:
as a percentage of GDP is generous but not outstanding, by international
standards. Canada spends more than Germany and Japan, but less than
many other countries.(40)
In this respect, Canada's
spending is about the average of the 16 nations surveyed. In recent years,
Canada has relied increasingly on contributions from local governments
and student fees.(41)
Some experts believe that
the role of the federal government is the most crucial issue for the future
of education in Canada. There are fears that the gradual diminution of
EPF funding may signal a change of direction away from federal support
of higher education and research in general.
The CAUT and others have
expressed concern that Canada's post-secondary education system is underfunded,
with the existing level of spending perhaps inadequate to avoid an erosion
of university facilities and standards. There have, for example, been
complaints of overcrowded classrooms, dilapidated equipment and unacceptable
student-faculty ratios in some universities. In addition, higher tuition
fees and other student costs also raise issues of future accessibility.(42)
The current system of unconditional
federal grants, while in accordance with constitutional principles, has
been criticized by at least one expert as lacking in purpose and effectiveness.
"Indeed, federal grants under the Established Programs Financing
(EPF) arrangement serve no discernible purpose at all, an outcome reflected,
in turn, in successive steps to hasten their demise."(43)
This author has suggested that if, as it appears, the long-term policy
of the federal government amounts to a gradual withering away of EPF support
for post-secondary education, it should concentrate on financing research
at post-secondary institutions and encourage university ties with industry,
in order to promote Canada's global competitiveness.(44)
It is difficult to see, however, how such policy could support even the
current breadth of disciplines or, indeed, how higher education could
thrive at all in Canada without continuing substantial financial support
from the federal government.
FOR THE FUTURE
Although Canada has achieved
a high standard of education, with wide accessibility and government financial
support among the highest in the world, there are concerns that a period
of erosion has begun in funding, and perhaps in accessibility and
quality at a time when international competition has intensified.
There is therefore an urgent need to identify significant goals and develop
Is education to be viewed
as an industry, producing graduates and potential employees as needed
for professional occupations, business and industry? If so, the standards
of excellence required may be adjusted by market forces. Alternatively,
do the goals of education include learning of a wider nature, the development
of critical thinking, a preparation for good citizenship, an understanding
of cultures, history and moral values, and the encouragement of artistic
and creative potential? In Canada, this broader view has generally been
accepted in the past, with variations in emphasis. These objectives make
the measurement of quality much more difficult but also encourage the
development of different kinds of expertise to address future challenges,
whether economic, societal, scientific or cultural.
Canada's education systems
are continually subject to reassessment, evaluation and criticism. Some
studies have indicated the need for more emphasis on teacher training.
The Commission of Inquiry into Canadian University Education in 1991 recommended
that education faculties in Canadian universities should receive more
attention and respect.
The quality, process, and
funding of education are vital issues that will continue to be questioned
at various levels. The importance of finding, pursuing and funding the
most appropriate strategies in response cannot be over-estimated. Historian
Desmond Morton has reminded Canadians that, even in times of general economic
difficulty, there remains "one pillar of ... prosperity which is
very much ours to neglect or repair, undermine or strengthen: it is the
provision of trained and educated intelligence."(45)
Beauchesne, Eric. "High
School Dropouts Cost Canada, and Themselves, Big Bucks: Report."
The Gazette (Montreal), 12 May 1992.
Brown, Douglas, Pierre
Cazalis and Gilles Jasmin, eds. Higher Education in Federal Systems.
Institute of Governmental Relations, Kingston, 1992.
Calamai, Peter. Broken
Words: Why Five Million Canadians are Illiterate. A Special Southam
Survey, Southam Printing Limited, Toronto, 1987.
Cameron, David M. "The
Framework for Managing and Financing Post-Secondary Education in Canada."
The Forum Papers, National Forum on Post-Secondary Education
in Canada, 1987. Institute for Research on Public Policy, Halifax, 1988.
Cameron, David M. More
than an Academic Question: Universities, Government and Public Policy
in Canada. Institute for Research on Public Policy, Halifax, 1991.
Campbell Goodell Consultants
Limited. A National Survey on the High School Dropout Situation.
Prepared for Employment and Immigration Canada, 1990.
Canada Communication Group.
Research Report. Ottawa, 1992.
Canada, Department of
the Secretary of State. Profile of Higher Education in Canada,
Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1991 Edition.
Canada, Human Resources
Development Canada. Profile of Post-Secondary Education in Canada.
Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1993 Edition.
Canada, Prosperity Secretariat.
"Learning Well ... Living Well." Minister of Supply and Services,
Canada, Standing Senate
Committee on National Finance. Federal Policy on Post-Secondary Education.
Minister of Supply and Services, Ottawa, 1987.
Canada, Standing Senate
Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. Proceedings.
17 March 1992 and 19 May 1992.
Canadian Centre for Policy
Alternatives. Canada's Education Crisis. Ottawa, 1993.
"Canada Fails to
Make Grade." Chronicle-Herald (Halifax), 8 April 1992.
Commission of Inquiry
on Canadian University Education. Report. Association of Universities
and Colleges of Canada, Ottawa, 1991.
Devereaux, Mary Sue, ed.
Leaving School. Prepared for Human Resources and Labour Canada,
Minister of Supply and Services Canada, Ottawa, 1993.
Economic Council of Canada.
A Lot to Learn Education and Training in Canada. Ottawa,
Economic Council of Canada.
Second Annual Review: Towards Sustained and Balanced Economic Growth.
Queen's Printer, Ottawa, 1965.
Gregor, Alexander D. and
Gilles Jasmin, eds. Higher Education in Canada. Department of
the Secretary of State, 1992.
Hobden, Andrea. "How
Can Canadians Compete Globally If Our Barriers to Education Continue?"
Toronto Star, 1 November 1993.
"Inventing Our Future:
An Action Plan for Canada's Prosperity." Canadian Vocational
Journal. Fall 1992, p. 9-13.
"Looking for a Better
System." University Affairs. May 1994, p. 14.
Lougheed, Tim and Ania
Wasilewski. "The New Internationalism." University Affairs,
March 1994, p. 6.
Martin, Rick. "Campus
Controversy: Students Have Had Enough." Globe and Mail (Toronto).
19 January 1993.
in the Schools." Globe and Mail (Toronto). 4 January
Morton, Desmond. "The
Role of Universities in Economic Renewal." Canadian Speeches:
Issues of the Day. March 1994, p. 60-63.
National Forum Secretariat.
"A Statistical Portrait of Higher Education in Canada." The
Forum Papers 1987, The Institute for Research on Public Policy,
Paquet, Gilles and Max
von Zur-Muehlen, eds. Education Canada. Canadian Higher Education
Research Network, Ottawa, 1987.
Sale, Tim. "The Funding
of Post-Secondary Education in Canada: Can the Dilemma be Resolved?"
Working Paper No. 28, Economic Council of Canada, Ottawa, 1992.
Scores Low Interest High." University Affairs, April 1990.
Statistics Canada. Education
in Canada: A Statistical Review for 1990-1991. Catalogue 81-229,
Statistics Canada. Financial
Statistics of Education, 1988-89. Catalogue 81-208, Ottawa, 1993.
Statistics Canada. Perspectives
on Labour and Income. Catalogue 75-001E, Ottawa, Autumn 1992, Spring
Statistics Canada. The
Daily. Catalogue 11-001E, Ottawa, 19 January 1993 and 16 November
Stewin, Leonard L. and
Stewart J.H. McCann, eds. Contemporary Educational Issues: The Canadian
Mosaic. Copp Clark Pitman, Toronto, 1993.
October 1993 and May 1994.
West, Edwin G. "Ending
the Squeeze on Universities." Policy Options. November 1993,
World Economic Forum.
World Competitiveness Report. 1992.
Canada, Department of the Secretary of State of Canada, Profile of
Higher Education, Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1991 Edition,
Economic Council of Canada, Second Annual Review: Towards Sustained
and Balanced Economic Growth, Queen's Printer, Ottawa, 1965.
David M. Cameron, "The Framework for Managing and Financing Post-Secondary
Education in Canada," The Forum Papers, National Forum on
Post-Secondary Education, 1987, Institute for Research on Public Policy,
Halifax, 1988, p. 17; and David M. Cameron, More than an Academic
Question: Universities, Government and Public Policy in Canada, Institute
for Research on Public Policy, Halifax, 1991, p. 60.
Canada, Human Resources Development Canada, Profile of Post-Secondary
Education in Canada, Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1993
Edition, p. 27; see Chart 7.1, Appendix.
Canada Communication Group, Research Report, 1992, p. 109.
See, for example, Cameron (1991), p. 438, and Cameron (1988), p. 7-9.
Statistics Canada, Perspectives on Labour and Income, Catalogue
75-001E, Autumn 1992, p. 51, and Spring 1993, p. 14.
Statistics Canada, Education in Canada, A Statistical Review for 1990-1991,
Catalogue 81-229, Ottawa, 1992, p. 15.
Profile of Higher Education (1991 Edition), p. 26; Profile
of Post-Secondary Education in Canada (1993 Edition), p. 24.
World Economic Forum, The World Competitiveness Report, 1992.
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canada's Education Crisis,
Ottawa, 1993, p. 3.
University Affairs, October 1993, p. 21.
Cameron (1991), p. 122 and 438.
Statistics Canada, The Daily, Catalogue 11-001E, 19 January
1993, p. 2, and 16 November 1993, p. 1.
"The Underfunding of Student Financial Assistance," in Canada's
Education Crisis (1993), p. 31-32.
"Looking for a Better System," University Affairs, May
1994, p. 14.
Tim Sale, "The Funding of Post-Secondary Education in Canada: Can
the Dilemma Be Resolved?" Working Paper No. 28, Economic Council
of Canada, Ottawa, 1992, p. 37.
"Inventing Our Future: An Action Plan for Canada's Prosperity,"
Canadian Vocational Journal, Fall 1992, p. 9-13 at p. 13.
Alexander D. Gregor and Gilles Jasmin, eds., Higher Education in Canada,
Department of the Secretary of State, 1992, p. 51.
R.S. Gall, in Leonard L. Stewin and Stewart J.H. McCann, Contemporary
Educational Issues: The Canadian Mosaic, Copp Clark Pitman, Toronto,
1993, p. 303.
Economic Council of Canada, A Lot to Learn Education and Training
in Canada, Ottawa, 1992, p. 9.
"Measuring Results in the Schools," The Globe and Mail
(Toronto), 4 January 1993, based on Economic Council of Canada data
on English language schools outside Quebec.
Economic Council of Canada (1992), p. 9.
Mary Sue Devereaux, ed., Leaving School, Prepared for Human Resources
and Labour Canada, Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1993, p. 1
Campbell Goodell Consultants Limited, "A National Survey on the High
School Dropout Situation," Prepared for Employment and Immigration
Canada, 1990, p. 5-6.
Devereaux (1993), p. 3 and 35.
Eric Beauchesne, "Highschool Dropouts Cost Canada, and Themselves,
Big Bucks: Report," The Gazette (Montreal), 12 May 1992.
Peter Calamai, "Broken Words: Why Five Million Canadians are Illiterate,"
A Special Southam Survey, McLaren Morris and Todd Limited, Toronto, 1987.
Economic Council of Canada (1992), p. 8-9.
"Science Survey Scores Low, Interest High," University
Affairs, April 1990, Reporting a survey by Dr. Edna Einsedel, University
Canada, Prosperity Secretariat, "Learning Well ... Living Well,"
Minister of Supply and Services, Ottawa, 1991, p. vii.
Economic Council of Canada (1992), p. 7.
"Canada Fails to Make Grade," Chronicle-Herald (Halifax),
8 April 1992.
Commission of Inquiry on Canadian University Education, Report,
Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, Ottawa, 1991, p. 73.
Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, Proceedings,
17 March 1992, p. 49, and 19 May 1992, p. A-19.
National Forum Secretariat, "A Statistical Portrait of Higher Education
in Canada," The Forum Papers 1987, The Institute for Research
on Public Policy, Halifax, 1988.
Canada, House of Commons, Standing Committee on Secretary of State, Proceedings,
CAUT Brief, February 1988, p. 7.
Tim Lougheed and Ania Wasilewski, "The New Internationalism,"
University Affairs, March 1994, p. 6.
Canada's Education Crisis (1993), p. 1-2.
Economic Council of Canada (1992), p. 39.
Statistics Canada, Education in Canada: A Statistical Review for 1990-91,
Catalogue 81-229, Ottawa, 1992, p. 227 and 232; Statistics Canada,
Financial Statistics of Education, 1988-89, Catalogue 81-208, Ottawa,
1993, p. 21.
Rick Martin, "Campus Controversy: Students Have Had Enough,"
Globe and Mail (Toronto), 19 January 1993, and Andrea Hobden,
"How Can Canadians Compete Globally If Our Barriers to Education
Continue?" Toronto Star, 1 November 1993.
Cameron (1991), p. 438.
Douglas Brown, Pierre Cazalis and Gilles Jasmin, eds., Higher Education
in Federal Systems, Institute of Governmental Relations, Kingston,
1992, p. 60, and see also Canada, Standing Senate Committee on National
Finance, Report, Federal Policy on Post-Secondary Education, Minister
of Supply and Services, Ottawa, 1987.
Desmond Morton, "The Role of Universities in Economic Renewal,"
Canadian Speeches: Issues of the Day, March 1994, p. 60-63
at p. 63.