Canadian education is still recognized as one of the best in the world. The recent results of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) show that Canadian teenagers perform above average, but Canada was outperformed by Asian and European countries (“Canada’s Students Slipping in Math and Science” par. 6). For instance, Canada’s score in math was 518 (with an average of 500) while Shanghai had 613.
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It has also been acknowledged that the countries average has been declining since 2006, which is an alarming trend (Bennett par. 5). At the same time, it is clear that education is one of the competitive advantages of the country as the efficient educational system is associated with a more efficient labor force, a stronger economy, higher living standards, and so on. Canada may well lose its competitive advantage if significant changes are not implemented. The educational system should be reformed so that the country could compete in the modern highly globalized world.
The reasons for the decline may be associated with assessment and standards or rather the lack of a country-wide set of standards and large-scale assessment programs. The development of the educational system of Canada can be characterized by a decrease in such incentives (Klinger and Saab 70). Provinces have their specific curricula and assessment standards that share a lot in common but still have many peculiarities. Thus, educational establishments of different provinces perform differently, but it is difficult to assess their effectiveness due to the lack of a standardized country-wide assessment program.
International assessment programs helped identify some trends and peculiarities of Canadian education. It has been found that more prosperous provinces scored higher than less well-off territories (Wells par. 9). Funding is vital for the efficacy of educational establishments. Each province allocates funds by its goals and resources. The disparity among different provinces is rather significant.
The country invests 4% of its GDP in its secondary education, which is slightly above average across the globe (3.8%) (Fullan and Rincon-Gallardo 171). However, these funds are allocated unevenly, which contributes to the different performance of schools and students. It is necessary to note that “annual expenditure per student relative to GDP in secondary education” was 23, which is below average (OECD average is 27) (Stevens 28).
Several factors contribute to the decline of the Canadian educational system’s efficiency:
- Canadian provinces show different results in international assessment programs. For instance, Ontario and Alberta were high achievers when it came to literacy while Newfoundland and New Brunswick scored significantly below average (Wells par. 9). These results are quite consistent with the overall financial situation in the provinces. Thus, it is clear that students from more prosperous provinces have higher scores and, hence, perform better and have more chances to enter a higher educational establishment.
- Assessment programs existing in different provinces usually have a significant number of differences (Klinger and Saab 70). Educational establishments have different curricula and priorities. Therefore, it is rather difficult to assess students’ performance, as well as the efficiency of an educational establishment, since different standards are employed across Canadian provinces. It has been found that Canada is the country where the disparity between scores of various groups is not significant (Fullan and Rincon-Gallardo 172). However, it still exists and is on the rise. Interestingly, Aboriginal populations studying in off-reserve schools receive lower scores than their counterparts who study in reserve educational establishments.
A reform of the educational system can address these issues by:
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- Providing the necessary resources for provinces with lower budgets. Federal funding programs can help provinces invest more in their educational systems. Schools will have the necessary resources (technology, high-profile employees, and so on).
- Providing the necessary basis for the nationwide assessment. A new large-scale assessment program will be instrumental in evaluating students’ performance and schools’ efficiency since a specific set of criteria will be analyzed. These scores will be used to introduce changes into the curriculum or the overall educational system.
- The development of the program implies research, development, trial, evaluation as well as implementation. Therefore, the implementation of this program will require significant funds as it is necessary to develop an integrated assessment program that will identify students’ scores in specific disciplines. The federal government may be reluctant to allocate additional funds to establish the policy. There is a trend of cutting expenditure through optimization (Klinger and Saab 70). Provinces are unable to carry out such a large-scale policy due to scarce resources as well as limited jurisdiction.
- Provinces may be unwilling to accept the change and adopt the policy as they may consider it to be a violation of their rights. Historically, provinces have developed in terms of specific environments (geographic, cultural, political, social, and so on). All the territories often have their perspectives on the major priorities in education. It may be difficult to encourage provinces to adopt the policy as it may fail to fully reflect their views on education and assessment.
- Furthermore, other stakeholders may also oppose the introduction of such a large-scale assessment program. Many Canadian educators are fascinated by the Finnish approach to teaching that focuses on trust rather than accountability (Bennett par. 13). Thus, they are likely to criticize the large-scale assessment program. Students and their parents may also be reluctant to support the policy as they may feel any assessment programs as insufficiently effective or informative.
Start a wide-scale debate on the benefits of the focus on accountability. People should understand the benefits of the federal-level assessment program. It is vital to focus on the need to introduce a system of common standards for all Canadian students. People should understand that these standards will reveal the actual level of students’ knowledge and skills. It is also essential to ensure people that their perspectives on education will be followed. The debate will be ongoing as people should receive information and provide their feedback during all the stages of the assessment program implementation.
Research and development
The new large-scale assessment program should be developed based on comprehensive research. It is possible to use the PISA framework as a background, but it is crucial to make sure that all cultural, historical, and social peculiarities of all provinces are taken into account. The assessment program should focus on basic skills students will need in their future life.
The implementation stage requires specific attention as the policy is likely to meet quite a significant resistance. It is important to make sure that the program is carried out properly with a strict focus on the plan.
The assessment program will be successful if it is evaluated properly. All difficulties, discrepancies, and inconsistencies should be noted and eliminated. The evaluation process should take at least several years to make sure that the program is successful, and the policy is viable.
Canadian students should continue participating in such assessment programs as PISA. The scores may help officials evaluate the efficacy of the large-scale assessment program. Furthermore, it is important to trace Canadian students’ achievements regarding higher education. The rate of students entering higher educational establishments or landing proper jobs can also show whether the assessment can help in predicting Canadian’s level of knowledge and skills as well as their preparedness for the life in society.
Assessment of the Proposal
- The focus on accountability has proved to be effective in many countries. For example, Japan, South Korea, China are now leading the list of countries whose students receive high scores during such assessment programs as PISA (Bennett par. 10).
- There have been large-scale assessment programs, so many people understand their value and benefits as well as the actual process of such programs evaluation. There are quite many supporters of the focus on accountability in Canadian society (Klinger and Saab 70).
- The policy does not include recommendations concerning possible ways to receive funding. It could be favorable to provide some suggestions as to ways funds could be re-allocated. Perhaps, these could be particular funds provided by the federal government and provinces.
- There is still uncertainty as to the efficiency of the focus on accountability or trust as different studies provide arguments for and against both approaches. Therefore, it can be quite difficult to predict the outcomes of the policy program. It can also be difficult to encourage Canadians to accept this change.
- Develop a detailed plan concerning funds allocation. The creation of a specific fund may be a possible solution. Provinces will provide half of the necessary resources (as per their budgets), and the other half can be financed by the federal government. It is also possible to consider shutting down financing for projects that have proved to be ineffective.
- Various media should be used to manage the debate. Television, social networks, as well as public discussions, fairs, and other venues will become a part of the debate. At that, it is important to engage educators and officials from other countries. Luckily, technology can make it possible quite easily. Online conferences can bring together stakeholders from different countries (educators, officials, parents, and students). These people will share their experiences concerning the use of large-scale assessment programs as well as the overall focus on accountability or trust.
- The creation of a cross-functional and diverse team of representatives of all provinces will be a key to the development and implementation of an efficient large-scale assessment program. This diversity will ensure the inclusion of all major aspects of Canadian education with a specific focus on the peculiarities of provinces.
- It can be beneficial to involve some employers in the development of assessment criteria. The major goal of education is to prepare younger generations to be successful in society. Employers (perhaps, human resources professionals) will outline major criteria companies use to select people. The historical perspective is also important.
Bennett, Paul W. “How to Reform Education? Start with School Choice.” The Globe and Mail. 2013. Web.
“Canada’s Students Slipping in Math and Science, OECD Finds.” CBC News Canada. 2013. Web.
Fullan, Michael, and Santiago Rincon-Gallardo. “Developing High-Quality Public Education in Canada: The Case of Ontario.” Global Education Reform: How Privatization and Public Investment Influence Education Outcomes. Ed. Frank Adamson, Bjorn Astrand, and Linda Darling-Hammond. New York: Routledge, 2016. 169-194. Print.
Klinger, Don A., and Hana Saab. “Educational Leadership in the Context of Low-Stakes Accountability: The Canadian Perspective.” School Leadership in the Context of Standards-Based Reform: International Perspectives. Ed. Louis Volante. Hamilton: Springer Science & Business Media, 2012. 69-95. Print.
Stevens, Robert. “Market Values and Equity in Schools.” Contemporary Issues of Equity in Education. Ed. Susanne Gannon. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014. 22-38. Print.
Wells, Paul. “Adding up the Ways We’re Falling Behind in Education.” MACLEAN’S. 2013. Web.