By Charlie Gillis - Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 0 Comments
Charlie Gillis on the munchkin invasion
Weekday mornings at P.L. Robertson Public School in Milton, Ont., are unlike anything most of us remember from school. For starters, there are the valets—a team of seven early childhood educators kitted out in orange reflector vests, opening car doors and holding backpacks to ensure a phalanx of minivans dropping off little people rolls apace. Then there are the “pens”: a network of fenced yards where kindergartners, who arrive in a seemingly endless flow, can play safely while they await the morning bell. “We use the word ‘pens’ lovingly,” says principal Wendy Spence. “But we might as well call them what they are.”
By 8:40 a.m., the kids begin filing indoors, and the enormity of Spence’s responsibility becomes clear. P.L. Roberston might be named for an icon of Milton’s industrial past (the man who invented the Robertson screwdriver), but it rests in a sea of brand-spanking new, cheek-by-jowl residential developments whose demographics skew heavily toward the young. Fully 403 of the school’s students are in kindergarten, representing nearly 40 per cent of a student body that, nominally at least, goes up to Grade 8. Four- and five-year-olds have all but taken over the place, decking the walls with their artwork and forcing older students into rows of portables while the Halton District School Board scrambles to build classrooms at neighbouring schools.
The munchkin invasion is a direct result of Milton’s status as a last frontier within commuting distance of Toronto: a young, middle-class family can still afford a home here—provided both parents have jobs. But P.L. Roberston is also a microcosm of a vast experiment in early-childhood education that school authorities across the country are keenly watching. By the fall of 2014, every family in Ontario will have access to state-funded, full-day kindergarten, sending some 250,000 kids into school for at least six hours per day. Other provinces offer all-day kindergarten to five-year-olds, but B.C. and Ontario are the first to try it at the both junior and senior levels. That means children as young as 3 now find themselves trundling off to school five days a week, staying until supper time if their parents take up the offer of fee-based child care available in about 60 per cent of schools.
By The Canadian Press - Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 9:38 PM - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – The cost of a four-year university degree for a child born in…
MONTREAL – The cost of a four-year university degree for a child born in 2013 could rise to more than $140,000 due to tuition inflation, a new study says.
But three-quarters of parents with children under 18 haven’t made a detailed estimate of the total cost of post-secondary education, said BMO’s Wealth Institute in a report released on Wednesday.
Tuition and other costs for a four-year university degree now can cost more than $60,000, the report said.
“I think that for most people if you tell them that tuition has increased two or three times the rate of inflation they will be surprised at that,” said BMO’s Caroline Dabu.
This can leave parents unprepared for the costs and students with hefty loans to pay back when they graduate, Dabu said from Toronto.
Over the last five years, the average annual inflation rate has been 1.6 per cent while tuition inflation was 3.9 per cent, the bank said.
It also noted that at the beginning of the 1990s, average undergraduate tuition fees in Canada were $1,464 and they’ve risen more than three-fold to $5,581.
Parents often see college or university as a long way off for their children, said Dabu, vice-president and head of BMO’s wealth planning group.
“The top mistake is not starting early enough.”
The report also found that 83 per cent of parents expect to pay for their child’s college or university costs, with 44 per cent expecting their child will also contribute.
“Let them know you’re saving for their education and have them involved in how you’re saving,” Dabu said.
If students have a part-time job, parents could have a portion of earnings go toward post-secondary education to help them understand budgeting, she added.
Only half of parents have set up a registered education savings plan (RESP), said the inaugural report by the bank’s newly created Wealth Institute, called: “Student Tuition and Debt on the Rise: RESP’s and Beyond.”
The report also found that only 34 per cent of parents were taking full advantage of the available government grant for RESPs.
The BMO report also recommends parents consider using tax free savings accounts, trusts, corporate dividends and life insurance policies to help pay for post-secondary education.
“The advice we give to clients is very similar as to what we give around retirement, and that is to start saving as soon as possible,” Dabu said.
By Rosemary Westwood - Friday, March 15, 2013 at 4:48 PM - 0 Comments
Colleges create programs in response to industry demand
Amy Gordon was in the middle of completing her second university degree when she decided to go to college instead. Gordon already had a degree in biology from the University of Alberta, and was studying chemical engineering at the University of Calgary. “I was getting really tired of learning lecture-style theory. I had an itch to get more hands-on and learn more,” says the 29-year-old.
So she left U of C, and is now nearing the end of a two-year diploma program in instrumentation engineering at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton. Gordon has been getting the hands-on training she wanted in labs supported by—and named after—Spartan Controls Ltd. The company has poured about $8-million worth of equipment into the program since 2007, essentially creating labs that replicate what it’s like to work in a refinery, giving students access to training on new technology.
- The future of jobs in Canada
- Green tech: No longer a niche
- After the oil boom
- Colby Cosh on the state and education
Colleges and institutes across the country have long had a cozy relationship with companies and industries, with a goal of fuelling economic growth and funnelling students into vacant jobs. But with the country’s skilled-labour shortage worsening—it’s estimated to reach four million over the next quarter-century—worried companies are coaxing colleges into ever closer and more creative partnerships. In some cases, they’re even helping design new programs.
By Amanda Shendruk - Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 11:20 AM - 0 Comments
Much has been written about the plight of the recent university graduate. She is over-educated, underemployed, and staring down an uncertain job market; the promise of a stable position was the last generation’s reality, not hers.
A newly-released report from the American non-profit Center for College Affordability and Productivity suggests almost half of all graduates work in jobs for which they are overqualified.
In Canada, the situation doesn’t seem quite as dire, but during the last year for which there are numbers, 2006, about one in four university-educated workers was in a position that didn’t require a degree. As Chris Sorensen and Charlie Gillis pointed out in “The New Underclass”, this proportion is believed to be even higher now.
But there must be jobs somewhere, right? In 2011, The Canadian Occupational Projection System (administered by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada) developed a detailed, 10-year labour market projections report that focuses on the estimated trends in labour supply and demand between 2011 and 2020.
Broken into occupational groups, the report determines which jobs are projected to have an excess of positions and which will have an excess of workers. The chart below details 20 of the occupations expected to see the greatest worker shortages between now and 2020. Note: They are not the positions where there are the most jobs, but the areas in which the chances of getting a job (due to the number of job openings exceeding the number of job seekers) are greater. Interestingly, only three require university-level education.
While the projections provide hope for some, they also reveal occupations for which the number of job seekers far outweigh the number of positions. To those seeking employment in the following fields (just to name a few): consider becoming a tailor.
- Management in communication.
- Managers in art, culture, recreation and sport.
- Physical science professionals.
- Athletes, coaches, etc.
- Machine operators and related works in pulp and paper production, wood processing, and workers in fabric, fur and leather.
- Machining, metalworking, woodworking and related machine operators.
By Jessie Willms - Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 10:12 AM - 0 Comments
See which programs are most popular
The programs post-secondary students choose these days suggest they’re somewhat aware of the job market. The first three charts in the infographic below, via Maclean’s On Campus, use data from the Ontario University Application Centre’s January 2013 statistics, which show the number of first-choice applications to Ontario university programs from Ontario secondary school students. Degrees in fields with jobs to spare, like engineering and nursing, are increasingly popular while applicants are shying away from things like forestry, journalism and education. The other charts, from a new Statistics Canada report on what post-secondary enrollments looked like nationwide in 2010-11, show that social sciences and humanities continue to account for half of all enrollments.
By macleans.ca - Monday, January 28, 2013 at 4:00 PM - 0 Comments
The tough choices that aren’t being made
This is as good as it gets, demographically speaking. Right now, Canada is in a demographic sweet spot. Our dependency ratio is currently at an all-time low of 59 dependents (those under 19 and over 65 years old) per 100 working-age adults, who pay the bills. Our share of non-workers to workers will never be so favourable again.
Two well-established trends are behind our current situation: a decline in the percentage of young Canadians due to falling birth rates; and the fact that the bulk of the baby boom generation is still working.
The problem is that this fortuitous circumstance can’t last. Public purses will soon be hit by a rising dependency ratio spurred by a flood of boomer retirees, improvements in longevity and continued sluggishness in births. In theory, governments would adapt to this changing situation by reallocating spending. In its regular update on Ottawa’s long-term fiscal outlook, for example, the parliamentary budget office recently noted that: “Population aging will put . . . upward pressure on programs whose benefits are mostly realized by Canadians in older age groups, such as health care, elderly benefits and public pension benefits.” Such a future funding crunch, however, will be “partially offset by reduced spending on programs with benefits largely focused on younger age groups, such as education.” Continue…
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 3:00 PM - 0 Comments
Stereotype of Canadian student spending isn’t the reality
The typical Canadian university student spends four years blowing borrowed money on clothes, music and liquor, right? That may be the stereotype, but it’s not the reality. The Canadian University Survey Consortium’s 2012 study of more than 15,000 graduating students shows that six in 10 are working, the vast majority pay off their credit card bills each month and only one-third have more than $20,000 in debt. Here’s an infographic that shows how students are paying their bills, via Maclean’s On Campus:
By Sonya Bell - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 2:30 PM - 0 Comments
Two years in, One Laptop Per Child Canada eyes expansion
The kindergarten kids who attend Lloyd S. King Elementary School on a reserve near Brantford, Ont. know to pack something extra every Tuesday and Thursday morning: their laptops.
When it’s quiet time on those days, teacher Tammy Sault dims the lights, puts on instrumental music and turns them loose on the kid-friendly green and white machines known as XO laptops. Instantly, the five-year-olds are booting them up and loading programs, solving mazes and identifying patterns.
A girl who has marked her laptop with her name, Emma, points directly at its screen when asked what her favourite thing is about school.
The laptops are here on the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation courtesy of One Laptop per Child Canada, a core program of the Belinda Stronach Foundation. The organization partnered with the original One Laptop per Child Foundation in the United States, which has distributed 2.5 million XO laptops in the developing world, to roll out the same rugged, low-cost laptop to young aboriginal students.
Since the launch of OLPC Canada’s pilot phase in September 2010, students at 14 schools in seven provinces and two territories have been given their own XO computers.
“I was really excited about it because not all of the children have access to technology at home,” Sault said.
The kindergarten teacher marvels at how quickly her students have picked up both tech and social skills since they started using the laptops at the beginning of the school year. They instruct one another about how to use different programs and remind each other that the laptop isn’t broken, it just needs to be charged. It has built up their confidence and problem-solving skills, she said.
But not everyone is as excited about the laptop program. Some teachers, not tech-savvy themselves, have expressed no interest in integrating the laptops into their lesson plans. The chat and video functions in particular are labelled a distraction. The laptops sit underused, either at home or at school.
It is one of several reality checks noted by OLPC Canada Director Jennifer Martino. In March, a full outside evaluation of the pilot program will be released. But Martino already knows they need to boost teacher training in the future from her visits to the participating schools.
“In almost every case, I was asked to come back to do additional training.”
A short drive away, at Kawenni:io Elementary School on the Six Nations of the Grand River, students in a mix of running shoes and moccasins recite the Thanksgiving Address in Cayuga and Mohawk to begin the school day.
Here, the biggest controversy over the laptops has been around language. The private school was formed in 1985 as a institution where students could learn the languages of their ancestors. But the language of instruction on the laptops is English.
Kindergarten teacher Esenogwas Hill remembers the initial rollout period as “a frustration”: kids who dropped the laptops burst into tears, thinking they had broken them. They asked her questions about them that she couldn’t answer. Then there were the parents who wanted to know why the laptops used English. Her solution is enforcing a low-volume rule to limit the oral English.
OLPC Canada responded to the English-language concerns, which were heard at multiple schools, by creating a Cayuga and Inuktitut keyboard. Hill still hopes to get Cayuga recordings installed on the laptops for verbal instructions, but said she supports the laptops in any case.
“I try to use them because the kids love them.”
It takes teacher supervision to ensure the kids are using the XOs for their lessons, and not just for the Paint program. But it can be done. Down the hall from Hill’s classroom, Grade 2 teacher Tesha Emarthle is teaching her students about the different phases of moon, which determine when cultural ceremonies are held, using a program called Moon Activity. Earlier in the school year, she took the students outside with their laptops to photograph trees and label their different parts.
OLPC Canada’s pilot phase comes to end in June, and the organization is in the process of securing funding to go forward. With a growing list of communities asking to take part, Martino said she hopes to double outreach in the next two years.
“Some of the schools have five computers that were donated in 1995, and they were used at that time. Some of them are really, really struggling with just basic access to technology. So when they hear that they could have one laptop for every child in their school? I mean, there are some places that don’t even have a cell phone signal.”
Though the OLPC Foundation has struggled in recent years with the advent of tablets, one advantage the XO still offers is durability. Only a few laptops at each site require repairs during the school year. Nevertheless, OLPC Canada is keeping an open mind about future technology, another area that will be addressed in the March report.
“There are lots of great learning apps that have been developed since the XO laptop came out. We’re certainly free to make those decisions, and be flexible, depending on the needs of the communities,” Martino said.
Back at Lloyd S. King Elementary School, special education teacher Carla Miller is sure about one thing: the device itself doesn’t matter as much as the learning opportunities it provides in a changing world.
“It’s so important. It’s where everything’s heading,” she said. “May as well get them started now.”
By macleans.ca - Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 3:52 PM - 0 Comments
Does an entire generation of young people have no future? Your thoughts here.
Last week’s cover story, “The New Underclass: Why so many smart, educated, ambitious young people have no future” hit a nerve with readers. Some thought it was dead on, others thought it was exaggerated, arguing that there are jobs out there. Here are some of the best responses sent in by mail, email and through social media:
Thank you for shedding some light on the way our education system has failed Canadian students (“The new underclass”, Society, Jan. 21). When I retired from the skilled trades a few years ago, the average age of tradesmen in Ontario was approaching 58 years of age. Yet still the education system was promoting a university degree as the best path forward. Skilled trades in Canada have been stigmatized by our education system, and it really came to a peak when special needs students came into the public education system and they were channelled into the “technical stream” and called something like “life skills.” That ended any interest normal students might have developed in following the technical stream as a path to the skilled trades.
Dave Bradley, Cargill, Ontario
During my 20-year career as a college professor, I observed the steady obsession by community colleges to become second-rate universities in staffing requirements, course content and political posturing. As well, my exposure to universities’ academic practices allowed me to learn of a fatal flaw in their philosophies of management. As an invited participant in committee processes at university, I was told what the students did with their education upon graduation was not a concern of the university, and that my recommendation of a “needs assessment” for a proposed new degree was not relevant or required. So now today’s students are processed by factory-like institutions that focus mainly on their own marketing-driven management mandarins. We must better define the specific roles, behaviours and outcomes of these publicly funded institutions. A structural and philosophical paridigm shift of the utmost magnitude is in order.
Neil O. Foster, Algonquin Highlands, Ont.
Thank you! You have no idea how great it felt picking up your Jan. 21 issue. Being part of the Generation Y cohort, I seriously almost cried. It finally felt like I had a voice. My generation’s plight will hopefully be heard, thanks to articles like this. It really hurts to be labelled as a bratty, entitled generation when we did everything asked of us. Is wanting the same middle-class lifestyle enjoyed by our parents and grandparents really too much to ask for?
Rishu Khan, Mississauga, Ont.
When I read “The new underclass” I felt very fortunate. I am a third-year agricultural business major, and ever since my first year, I have been working in my field. I’ve had five job offers for this summer in my field. I have no doubts about employment in a position I will enjoy after graduation. Our college graduates 300 agricultural students a year to fill 900 jobs available; employment within a year of graduating is 100 per cent in our field. The sad reality is, most students who grew up within city limits do not see agriculture as a viable option, because when they think agriculture, they think of a farmer breaking his back plowing and wrangling cows. The agricultural industry is very big business throughout the world and one that provides growth for innovative, educated and passionate young people in its field.
Marin MacNamara, Grand Valley, Ont.
Many young people either have no real marketable skill or the skill they do have is not demanded by society. There’s also the fact that so many retired people with excellent benefits and pensions, such as teachers, are taking jobs away from the young, which is most unfair. My husband knew a man who, while holding down a full-time government job, was collecting five good pensions. When my husband applied to the Bentley School of Accounting in Boston many years ago, which was one of the best in the United States, their slogan was, “We will teach you how to make a living, you can get educated on your own time.” Maybe our educational institutions should adopt the same philosophy. At least it would save a lot of people a lot of money.
Dolores Murray, Sarnia, Ont.
Why do so many young people have no future? We have lost a large amount of our manufacturing. No economy can function properly without an adequate level of manufacturing. Every Western country has the same problem and needs the same solution.
Edward J. Farkas, Toronto
As a mother of four, two of whom are in their early 20s and another two in high school, I was disappointed that your story suggested our young people have “no future.” My husband and I graduated in the mid-’80s. He worked as an engineer and I worked in advertising. Between us, we were able to rent a basement apartment. We still lived there when our first daughter was born in 1988. We continued to live in rented accommodation after our second daughter was born; I walked to a laundromat, kids in tow, for years. Those were tough times, but we lived frugally and when the housing market took a dive in the early ’90s we were able to buy one-half of a modest duplex. Many years, later, we were able to buy a detached home in a nice neighbourhood. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been rewarding. Canadian youth should know that there is a future, regardless of your background or level of education. Work hard, think creatively and be flexible, and you’ll be surprised at the riches life has to offer.
Heather MacDonald, Ottawa
Young people today are a product of parents’ obsession with only a university education. My own son went to community college for one year and then became a heavy duty mechanic apprentice. Now going into his third year of apprenticeship, he earns $65,000 a year before any overtime and he regularly receives unsolicited job offers. I am confident that he will not be a member of your new underclass.
Paul Schroeder, Winnipeg
The opening sentence of this article claims that “Melanie Cullins is no pipe dreamer.” Oh really? This 28-year-old you profile has no job, a husband doing contract work, no benefits or pension, two babies and she still expects to own a home in one of Canada¹s most expensive cities and get a job making the amount she would like to make in a job she would like to have. If this is not a pipe dream, I don’t know what is. If the expectation of the boomers’ children is to all live like this in their twenties, Canada is in real trouble. Later in the issue you point out careers where numerous jobs can be found. It is a shame it takes a magazine article to tell these people what industries the jobs are located in.
Jeff Brisbois, Port Williams, N.S.
The current blame for this problem is shared by all facets of our community: parents who expect their offspring all to be leaders, professionals, and rich but not have to get their hands dirty; educators who attract students with false promises of a bright future while offering underwater basket-weaving courses to expand their institution’s population with no emphasis on what it takes to “earn a living.” We need to require all high school graduates to work for two years prior to further higher education. Teachers should have experienced several facets of commercial life prior to entering the teaching profession. All employers of 10 skilled persons should be required to train one apprentice. Encourage the colleges and universities to teach practical courses that will result in gainful employment, and minimize financial support for students taking non-commercial courses. Explain to parents that there is no shame in living a life of basic rewards for meaningful work. The future of Canadian society as we know it will depend on getting this problem solved.
Brian Riden, Stirling, Ont.
You quote a professor of labour studies from McMaster University, who himself was in university for over 10 years, as saying “the risk of trade jobs is that technical change comes along and wipes out your trade.” All the technology in the world is never going to replace someone who can tape drywall, fix your furnace or climb hydro poles.
Evan Bates, Parry Sound, Ont.
Much of the bad news for today’s youth has been apparent for some time: the high levels of student debt, the underemployment, and the lack of skilled trades workers. What really shocked me, though, was the continuing disparity in earnings between men and women in the same profession (“The million-dollar promise,” Society, Jan. 14). What year is this again? In order to become a civil engineer, a nurse, a lawyer or a pharmacist, women and men follow the same curriculum, write the same exams, and pay the same tuition. It seems to me that tuition for women should be lowered to reflect the wage gap they will face upon entry into the workforce.
Mary Mackay, Ottawa
The story also ignited a debate online, with plenty of comments on Twitter and Facebook.
By Emma Teitel - Friday, January 11, 2013 at 9:47 AM - 0 Comments
Why is illiteracy considered a legitimate deficit, while innumeracy is seen as a punchline condition?
Tori Spelling’s resolution for 2013 is to get back into her skinny jeans. Wyclef Jean’s is to never again remain silent in the face of violence because it’s “a scar on the world’s cheek.” Mine might be more ambitious than both: I am going to learn how to add. In my life, this is anything but a trivial endeavour. I happen to be innumerate—which means I do not, and cannot, do simple math. In fact, I avoid it at all costs. Literally. I’d rather pay the whole dinner bill than try to calculate the tip.
There are many people like me, some of whom may be reading this column: otherwise seemingly well-adjusted members of society who hand the cashier a $20 bill for a coffee when they have exact change, or never bother to count the change when the cashier hands it back because they doubt they’d be able to determine if there was an error. And besides, it would take so long that everyone in line behind them would probably leave the store. (For innumerates, the fear of attempting math is compounded by the fear they’ll hold up the line indefinitely if they do attempt it.)
One recent American study found that for math-phobic people, the anticipation of numerical computation actually triggers a brain reflex commonly associated with pain. According to a recent report in Britain’s Independent, “the number of [British] adults who have numeracy skills no better than those expected of an 11-year-old has shot up from 15 million to 17 million—49 per cent of the adult population—in the last eight years.” That’s a lot of pain, and a lot of self-defeating, ironic surrender. The last time I took math was in the 10th grade. It was a remedial class called personal finance, where the only reason anyone touched a calculator was to steal the batteries. Continue…
By Blog of Lists - Sunday, December 23, 2012 at 5:30 AM - 0 Comments
According to the United Nations, when measured by factors such as life expectancy, income and education, here are the countries that have the most reason to be happy:
4. United States Continue…
By Cynthia Reynolds - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 7:30 AM - 0 Comments
Protesting oil pipelines, celebrating polygamy: is the new ‘social justice’ agenda in class pushing politics at the expense of learning?
To those who don’t keep up with education trends, certain recent events might appear to be unrelated. In May, a Grade 3 class in Toronto took to the streets with signs and an oversized papier mâché oil pipeline to protest the laying of an actual pipeline in western Canada. Last year, in Toronto, first-graders brought home student planners marked with the international days of zero tolerance on female genital mutilation and ending violence against sex workers, a means to spark conversation on the issues. In Laval, Que., a six-year-old boy was disqualified from a teddy-bear contest because a Ziploc was found in his lunch instead of a reusable container. In Ste-Marie-de-Kent, N.B., in 2009, Grade 4 students were given 10 minutes to decide which three people from this group should be saved from an imminent planetary explosion: a black African, a Chinese person, an Aboriginal, an Acadian francophone and an anglophone.
These are just a handful of examples of the more peculiar by-products of a vision gaining ground among many education architects: an elementary school education rooted in social-justice principles. Increasingly, faculties of education in Canada and much of the Western world are preparing their student teachers to weave social justice throughout the primary school curriculum—in math and science, language arts and social studies, drama and even gym—as well as into a range of cross-curricular activities, events and projects. The idea is to encourage kids to become critical analysts of contemporary issues, empathetic defenders of human rights and gatekeepers of the beleaguered Earth.
But social justice—which encompasses diversity, sustainability, global affairs and issues of race and class—is a broad term with varying interpretations. It can manifest in wildly different ways. In the hands of one teacher, social justice might entail teaching kids to care for the Earth by having them plant trees in the schoolyard. Another might have the same children write letters to the government about the environmental effects of mining, urging it to reform how mining claims are processed—part of an actual Grade 4 lesson plan created at the University of Ottawa.
By Erica Alini - Monday, October 29, 2012 at 5:16 PM - 0 Comments
Education is the fastest growing startup sector in Canada
Anyone who’s ever sat in on a 500-undergraduate lecture knows that taking good notes can get tricky, says 23-year old Jack Tai. “What if you happen to be sitting too far to hear properly?” Or, worse still, “what if you’re an international student?”
That was the case for Tai’s classmate Jackey Li, who’d just landed at the University of Toronto from China. But their friend Kevin Wu, a native Canadian, also had trouble transcribing what he heard in class. The three bonded over those struggles with spotty annotations, they started sharing notebooks and spending afternoons together at the library going over material covered in class.
Four years and three Bachelor’s degrees later, in September 2010, Tai, Wu and Li launched Notesolution, a website that lets students share notes online without having to line up at the photocopy machine. They started marketing the service at their alma mater, and “within the first year we had 9,000 registered users,” says Tai. Today, the company counts over 60,000 users across Canada and 14 employees.
Notesolution is part of Canada’s so-called ed-tech boom, with software companies catering to students, teachers and professional trainers sprouting up all over the country. The last few years have seen education shoot to the top of the charts in terms of startup activity. According to a recent CIBC study, the ranks of self-employed Canadians working in the sector grew by a staggering 65 per cent between 2007 and 2012. By comparison, the second-best performing startup industry in Canada, healthcare, saw growth of less than 25 per cent during the same period.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at 11:43 AM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – The federal government has decided how it will spend the $275 million…
OTTAWA – The federal government has decided how it will spend the $275 million it has budgeted to improve First Nations education.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan says part of the money will go towards building three new schools on reserves this year and renovating five others in the years to come.
The new schools are to be built in the some of the country’s neediest communities, in Pikangikum and Fort Severn in Northern Ontario, as well as Shamattawa in Manitoba.
Part of the money will go towards “bundling” together the construction work in the hope of achieving some economies of scale.
And another part of the funding will go to proposals that help native bands build the expertise they need to eventually take control of their education systems.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 12:46 PM - 0 Comments
Overcrowding at a high school in B.C. is forcing some teachers to take a…
Overcrowding at a high school in B.C. is forcing some teachers to take a more creative approach to gym class.
Lacking gymnasium space, students at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary in Surrey will soon be using hallways to play ping-pong and indoor curling equipment when it’s too rainy to go outside, the Vancouver Sun reports. The school is located in B.C.’s largest school district, which has 70,000 students and 12 per cent of B.C’s student population. With burgeoning enrollment and no extra space, teachers have been designated certain hallways, and spaces in the school’s cafeteria, for circuit training in an effort to keep up with the province’s PE requirements.
Lord Tweedsmuir, and other schools in the district, have also started classes earlier in the morning and end them later in the afternoon to better use space.
While the solutions are creative, they are far from ideal, say Surrey residents. Overcrowding has serious ramifications for students who can’t get credits they need for university, and the extended school days has made it nearly impossible for students to work part-time jobs or look after younger siblings.
By Josh Dehaas - Friday, September 7, 2012 at 2:40 PM - 0 Comments
Our much-anticipated Law School Rankings plus what’s hot in engineering, medicine, M.B.A.s and more.
Our much-anticipated Law School Rankings plus what’s hot in engineering, medicine, M.B.A.s and more. It’s all inside the Maclean’s Professional Schools Issue, on newsstands and iPad now. You’ll get:
- The engineering field so hot that companies are taking students on all-expenses-paid trips
- Charlie Gillis on the question: Should articling be scrapped?
- How students are financing their degrees
- Rebranding the M.B.A
- …and much more.
By Brian Bethune - Thursday, September 6, 2012 at 12:27 PM - 0 Comments
New cutting-edge research says personality traits and social skills play a crucial role
In the last 25 years or so, the politically potent American education reform movement, a heterogeneous lot united by little else than a belief that the nation’s schools are in crisis, has moved from cause to cause, from standardized testing to charter schools, like a hyperactive child off his Ritalin. There’s good cause for this restlessness. For all the money poured into state and local school-board elections, for all the parent trigger laws that have resulted—like the one that allows Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis’s characters to rally their fellow parents to take over their local school in the hotly anticipated film Won’t Back Down—results have been stubbornly slow to come, and the target ever-evolving.
In the 1980s and ’90s, reformers concentrated on what they considered insufficient cognitive training, especially among disadvantaged kids. The divergence in outcomes between rich and poor children lay in the number of words they heard by age three—at the extremes, 30 million for the offspring of professionals and 10 million for those whose parents were on welfare. The latter could never catch up in school, the experts concluded, not without hours of language-intensive instruction. More recently, the focus has been on teacher quality. Those opposed to teacher tenure on pedagogical grounds (because tenure makes it harder to fire underperformers) have made successful common cause in an age of austerity (experienced instructors are paid more). Only half of New York City’s teachers, the city announced last month, now have tenure, compared to 80 per cent just three years ago.
The jury is still out on the gains to be reaped from wholesale changes in the way teachers are hired, fired and paid, not to mention whether any structural change can block the virtually inevitable tendency for the most underperforming teachers to end up in charge of the most underperforming students in the most wretched public schools. (Enthusiasts may wish to temper their enthusiasm: the academic research that shifted reformers’ focus to teacher quality concluded that better instructors were responsible for less than 10 per cent of the gap between high- and low-performing students.) As for the rest of the reforms, in a country with the second-highest college dropout rate in the 34-nation Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, there has been little to show for years of effort and expense, especially for the seven million kids whose families make less than $11,000 a year. No matter what happens in schools, the chaos and the stress of their domestic lives obliviate it.
By Andrew Stobo Sniderman - Wednesday, August 8, 2012 at 10:31 AM - 0 Comments
Often, they receive about a quarter less funding for primary school education than other Canadian children
The two schools sit a mere five kilometres apart as the crow flies, in a rural stretch of Manitoba about four hours west of Winnipeg. Their soccer teams compete every spring. Their students groan over many of the same textbooks. But as the road from Rossburn Collegiate to the Waywayseecappo reserve school runs down a hill into a lush valley, it also crosses an invisible jurisdictional line that led to an egregious gap between native and non-native students.
Until about 18 months ago, a student in Waywayseecappo received about $7,300 in annual funding from the federal government, while a student at Rossburn Collegiate received about $10,500 from the provincial government. Then one day the disparity disappeared, poof, overnight.
After three years of talks, Aboriginal leaders in Waywayseecappo persuaded the provincial and federal governments to let them join the local school board, effectively transforming their Aboriginal students into provincial students. Under the agreement, the feds matched the provincial standard dollar for dollar. With 300 students enrolled from kindergarten to Grade 8, that meant an extra $1.2 million for Waywayseecappo’s annual budget. The school immediately hired six more teachers, and the average class size halved from more than 30 to around 17. Previously, an entire wing had sat empty for want of teachers. Now all the classrooms are in use. “We certainly managed before, but it just wasn’t fair,” says Troy Luhowy, the school’s principal, who notes that reading scores have already improved noticeably.
By Gustavo Vieira - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 at 10:52 AM - 0 Comments
Quebec’s student strike, the longest ever in the province’s story, has now entered a…
Quebec’s student strike, the longest ever in the province’s story, has now entered a crucial week without any resolution in view. The strike has dragged for eight weeks now, gathering almost half of the university and college population in the province against a $1,625 tuition hike ($325 a year for five years) proposed by the provincial government, which said Monday there are no talks scheduled to discuss the impasse. The Université de Montréal sent an email last week to its student body, telling them to return to class by Tuesday or face a lost semester, which can only be extended to June 15.
But the students have planned even more protests this week. On Monday, more than 1,000 gathered in downtown Montreal, in a movement the Quebec Federation of College Students (FECQ) and other student organizations are now calling the “Quebec Spring,” alluding to the sweeping revolutions that shook the Arab world last year. According to the Montreal Gazette, the students are also planning to launch a 12-hour protest on Wednesday against the tuition stalemate, and CTV reported a long march is planned for Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of the provincial Liberal government, which is pushing the tuition increase.
The protests continue in Quebec, where tuition fees are the lowest in Canada (even with the proposed increase), in spite of court injunctions mandating picket lines to be dismantled and a recent offer from the government to implement changes to student loans, pegging them to the income of students and parents.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 2:50 PM - 0 Comments
Just before Sunday’s NDP debate, Paul Dewar released his platform on families.
Dewar is committing that as Prime Minister, he will: Give Canadian families a break on the cost of prescription drugs by cooperating with provinces and territories on a bulk-buying strategy; Give young Canadians a fair start by immediately reducing tuition fees by $700/year, reducing interest fees on student debt to prime rate and creating Your Canada Year to cover a year of tuition fees in return for a year of community service; Protect our retirement security by bolstering public pension plans and safeguarding unfunded pensions, severances and long-term disability benefits in bankruptcy proceedings; Support new Canadian families by ensuring a fair and transparent foreign credential recognition mechanism, supporting family reunification and strengthening settlement services; Lift our most vulnerable citizens out of poverty by focusing on income security, housing and social inclusion, including achievable first steps toward an annual guaranteed income for seniors, the disabled and children living in poverty.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, December 16, 2011 at 4:55 PM - 0 Comments
Paul Dewar offers a tuition break for a year of community service.
Dewar’s ‘Your Canada Year’ will provide 10,000 youth with a grant for training or post secondary education in exchange for one year of service with a non-profit organization … Under the program Canadians between ages 17 and 25 will be eligible to volunteer in Canada or overseas. In exchange they’ll receive a maximum of $1,500/month to help cover expenses during their service and a grant of up to $6,000 for one year of post-secondary education or training afterwards.
By Richard Warnica - Tuesday, November 29, 2011 at 8:20 AM - 5 Comments
A charismatic student leads a widespread revolt against former dictator Augusto Pinochet’s school reforms
If one were to rank the legacies of the Pinochet era in Chile, education reform wouldn’t likely make most lists. The former dictator devastated his country in many ways. Thousands of his opponents were murdered or simply disappeared. Countless more were tortured or forced into exile. But Augusto Pinochet also radically deregulated the education market, pulling funds from the public sector in the early 1980s and spreading them into a parallel private system. Remarkably, it is that decision that has his country roiling today.
For more than six months, tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of students have filled the streets in Chile’s cities. Their explicit goal: to overturn the education system Pinochet imposed. Under the Pinochet system, private education flourished while the costs for public education, at the university level, soared. Chilean university students today pay upwards of 80 per cent of the costs of their own education in public and private universities, the highest rate in the OECD. To pay that, many take out crippling student loans. Many lower-income students, products of the poorly funded public secondary system, meanwhile, are shut out of the better universities by dint of poor test scores.
Beginning last Chilean fall, the students began to revolt. They shut down classes, stormed ministries and, depending on who you believe, either provoked or suffered through violent clashes with police. The protests, which featured massive street marches as recently as mid-November, are the largest and most sustained since Pinochet’s rule ended more than 20 years ago. Many have been organized by the country’s most prominent student group, whose leader, Camila Vallejo, has become a minor folk hero in the country.
By Cynthia Reynolds - Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 9:50 AM - 149 Comments
Complaints about a generation of the mechanically challenged
It’s hard not to laugh when Barry Smith starts telling stories about the hapless young workers he has to deal with. Smith, who runs Toronto-area roofing company RoofSmith Canada, tells of one who didn’t come to work because his cat had fleas, and another who jumped off a shed roof, even though he’d just tossed bags of nails into the garbage bin below. But the laughing tapers off when Smith, 46, talks about skills.
“They don’t know how to handle a tool properly,” he says quietly. “They’re bright kids, but they hold a hammer at the top instead of the bottom, so it takes four swings instead of one to get a nail in. They don’t know how to read the short lines on a tape measure and they’ve never used power tools, which makes you really cautious.” He says they can’t seem to detect the patterns of the work—you rip up part of the roof, that gets thrown down, that goes into the garbage—so they just stand around. “It can get really frustrating.”
There’s much talk about a coming crisis in the trades—that we simply don’t have enough new recruits to replace an aging workforce. By some estimates, Canada could face a shortfall of up to one million skilled tradespeople by 2020. To address this shortage, the government is funding a variety of incentives to attract young talent and it’s beefing up our apprenticeship training programs—registrations are at an all-time high. But a stumbling block has emerged that’s getting harder to ignore: by all accounts, we have the least handy, most mechanically deficient generation of young people. Ever.
It’s easy to see why.
Shop classes are all but a memory in most schools—a result of liability fears, budget cuts and an obsession with academics. Still, even in vocational high schools where shop classes endure, a skills decline is evident. One auto shop teacher says he’s teaching his Grade 12 students what, 10 years ago, he taught Grade Nines. “We would take apart a transmission, now I teach what it is.” Remarkably, most of his Grade 11 students arrive not knowing which way to turn a screwdriver to tighten a screw. If he introduces a nut threaded counterclockwise, they have trouble conceptualizing the need to turn the screwdriver the opposite way. That’s because, he says, “They are texting non-stop; they don’t care about anything else. It’s like they’re possessed.”
At home, spare time is no longer spent doing things like dismantling gadgets, building model airplanes or taking apart old appliances with dad; there’s no tinkering with cars, which are so computerized now you couldn’t tinker if you wanted to. A 2009 poll showed one-third of teens spend zero time per week doing anything hands-on at all; the same as their parents. Instead, by one count, entertainment media eats up 53 hours a week for kids aged eight to 18. As for those new apprentices? They’re signing up and then they quit. Depending on the province and trade, some 40 to 75 per cent drop out before completing their program.
In Nisku, Alta., John Wright, the technical supervisor at manufacturing company Argus Machines, oversees 12 apprentices in the welding, machinist and millwright trades. Three years ago, he started noticing two tiers of applicants, those with basic mechanical skills and a new crop who, as he says, had no clue what they were doing. He speculated the disparity stemmed from their upbringing.
“The ones from the farm community weren’t afraid to get in there and get dirty. They could figure out basic repairs. And when you have to feed the chickens and milk the cows every day, you learn how to show up to work on time.” Those who didn’t have hands-on experiences couldn’t grasp basic nuts-and-bolts mechanics, they couldn’t solve simple problems. Worse, they lacked the same work ethic, which made them too difficult to train. The implications reach well beyond the trades.
Occupational therapist Stacy Kramer, clinical director at Toronto’s Hand Skills for Children, offers one explanation for what’s happening. It begins with babies who don’t get put on the ground as much, which means less crawling, less hand development. Then comes the litany of push-button toy gadgets, which don’t exercise the whole hand. That leads to difficulty developing skills that require a more intricate coordination between the hand and brain, like holding a pencil or using scissors, which kindergarten teachers complain more students can’t do. “We see 13-year-olds who can’t do up buttons or tie laces,” she says. “Parents just avoid it by buying Velcro and T-shirts.” Items that—not incidentally—chimpanzees could put on.
When the first apes climbed down from the trees to explore life on the ground some three million years ago, it was their hands, no longer used for branch swinging, that helped trigger our evolution. Hand structure changed, enabling us to perform increasingly complex grips. The conversation between hand and brain grew more complex, too. We advanced to the unique ability to visualize an idea, then create that vision with our hands. That’s meant everything from developing tools to imagining airplanes to performing open-heart surgery. So what happens if that all-important hand-brain conversation gets shortchanged at a young age? Can it be reintroduced later, or does that aptitude dissipate?
“We don’t really know,” says neurologist Dr. Frank Wilson, author of The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language and Human Culture. “That research wouldn’t get through an ethics committee, even though it’s happening on a massive scale in our homes every day.” We only have these uncomfortable clues, such as young people who can’t visualize how to best wield a hammer. Or teens who, despite years of unscrewing bottle tops and jars, can’t intuitively apply the righty-tighty, lefty-loosey rule of thumb.
Predictably, this is affecting other industries that depend on a mechanically inclined workforce. After NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab noticed its new engineers couldn’t do practical problem solving the way its retirees could, it stopped hiring those who didn’t have mechanical hobbies in their youth. When MIT realized its engineering students could no longer estimate solutions to problems on their own, that they needed their computers, it began adding remedial building classes to better prepare these soon-to-be professionals for real-world jobs, like designing airplanes and bridges. Architecture schools are also adding back-to-basics courses. As for the trades? Veterans like Barry Smith have little choice but to attempt to nurse a hands-on ability among new recruits one hammer faux pas at a time, teaching the next generation of tradespeople just how to hit a nail on the head.
By Stephanie Findlay - Friday, August 12, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 5 Comments
Public schools that recruit high-paying international students create, some say, a two-tier system
Last year, Patricia Gartland, who works for a suburban Vancouver school district, brought in $16 million selling 1,700 B.C. classroom spots to foreign students, largely from China and South Korea. Gartland, who started her job as director of international education with the Coquitlam School District in suburban Vancouver over 10 years ago, has made the program in Vancouver one of the most extensive in Canada and the envy of the scores of districts across the country looking to cash in on the growing market for international students.
With international students paying $10,000 to $14,000 to attend Canadian schools, public school administrators across the country are setting up for-profit international student programs to compete for their dollars. One 2009 study estimated some 35,000 foreign students in the K-12 system contribute almost $700 million annually to the Canadian economy—a win-win for students, who get an invaluable leg-up when applying to North American post-secondary schools, as well as district administrators, who make up to 50 per cent profit on the tuition.
International student programs aren’t new to Canada, but at the K-12 level they’re rarely talked about, although most provinces have had programs for at least a decade. No province has been more successful at bringing in international students than B.C., with some 9,000. Capitalizing on the demand for a Western diploma and an English-language education, B.C. schools compete with Britain, the U.S. and Australia to recruit students overseas. School districts send staff abroad to meet foreign school officials and to attend trade shows. Domestically, the districts liaise with the Lower Mainland’s tight-knit Chinese and Korean communities, looking for overseas relatives. Once in Canada, the students live with extended family or billets. The students are offered supplementary language classes in tandem with regular studies, though eventually most opt for the standard curriculum.
By John Geddes - Monday, July 11, 2011 at 10:05 AM - 6 Comments
A surprising new study says Quebec’s $7-a-day daycare is leaving children worse off
In public policy, few subjects are as sure to spark fierce debate as child care. Prime Minister Stephen Harper portrays a stark divide when he talks about his Conservative policy of giving parents $100 a month for every child under six, and how he scrapped the previous Liberal government’s plan to pour billions into deals with the provinces to expand subsidized daycare. “We took money from bureaucrats and lobbyists,” he says, “and gave it to the real experts on child care, and their names are Mom and Dad!”
If daycare advocates have lost the battle in Ottawa, at least for as long as Harper is in power, they’ll always have Quebec as a beacon of hope. Starting in 1997, the province implemented a low-cost universal child care policy along the lines of the European model. The number of subsidized daycare spaces in the province soared to 210,000 last year, from just 77,000 in 1997. Nothing like it has been tried anywhere else in North America.
But now three Montreal researchers have studied the Quebec experiment, focusing on how the rapid expansion of $7-a-day daycare seems to be reflected in Quebec kids’ scores on a school-readiness test. Their findings are potentially explosive. “In summary,” they write, “the effects of the program are found to be negative for five-year-olds and less convincingly negative for four-year-olds.”