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Canada losing 'knowledge advantage': Thinktank

Canada is falling behind in important areas of education, according to the Canadian Council on Learning.

The CCL released a report today, Taking Stock of Lifelong Learning in Canada (2005-2010): Progress or Complacency? The report looks at the current state of learning from early childhood to graduate school, adult learning, workplace training and Aboriginal education.

In a news release about the report, CCL President Paul Cappon said the country is not living up to its education ambitions:

“In 2006, when the Government of Canada declared an ambition for the country to build the “Knowledge Advantage” necessary for success in the global economy, CCL commended it as an important step.

“However, as our report shows, by continuing to fall behind in some key areas of learning, Canada may be creating a national knowledge disadvantage. Unlike Canada, competitor countries have developed, or are in the process of developing, coordinated approaches to education and lifelong learning.”

The report finds Canada is not investing enough in early childhood education, and lacks national standards for assessing its effectiveness and and financing.

Canadian secondary schools are still doing well in reading, science and math, but the CCL warns that other countries are catching up. And while post-secondary is recruiting a larger proportion of young Canadians, “Canada is unique in having no national system of post-secondary education. Canada is also at a disadvantage by having not a single measurable national goal, benchmark, or assessment of achievement for any phase of education.”

The report also warned that almost half the adults in the country “lack the prose-literacy skills needed to cope with the demands of a knowledge-based global economy.”

The CCL said it wanted to go beyond high-school graduation as the sole indicator of success for Aboriginal students, and has developed “a more comprehensive approach to measuring the learning success of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. The resulting framework is known as the Holistic Lifelong Learning Measurement Framework.”

The news release also noted that the CCL has launched a free, online Data Warehouse providing access to much of its research data gathered over the past five years.

The Canadian Council on Learning was in the news last January when the federal government announced it was ending its funding of CCL effective March 31.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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