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I would like to thank all of you for coming this morning. I would especially like to acknowledge the presence of Members of parliament and Senators who, by being here this morning, are demonstrating their keen interest in matters of learning. It will be a pleasure for me this morning to discuss the Canadian Council on Learning, its mission, its priorities and its strategic plan. From my perspective, the creation of the Canadian Council on Learning holds more promise than anything that has been conceived over the past several decades in this area. It is not a panacea for all our learning deficits. But I do say that this Council, with its focus on strategic, national thinking and work on learning for all of Canada, is a key to that success. So this morning it is my pleasant task to set before you succinctly why this is so and how CCL will achieve its goals. As I provide for you a sense of the origins of the Canadian Council on Learning, I will be able to speak to the vision and mission which will guide it. The CCL was originally announced at the national Summit on Innovation in Toronto as the Canadian Learning Institute. It was a prime ministerial announcement made on behalf of the Government of Canada by the Minister of Human Resources, as the culmination of that Summit on Innovation. The Summit was attended by leaders from all walks of Canadian life - education, business, labour, government, aboriginal organizations and non-governmental organizations of many kinds. And it was their collective wisdom and their joint will, as well as the courage, vision, and foresight of the Government of Canada that ultimately created CCL. What did we all hear at that conference which has resulted in the initiative being explained today? People said that Canada must move beyond rhetoric about lifelong and life-broad learning: they wanted to see links among the various parts of our learning systems - a national roadmap for a culture of learning from early childhood right through life. They were not prepared to accept that we as a society should not do this just because education is a provincial responsibility. People wanted to know what educational models and practices work well, and which do not - in Canada and abroad. So that, in their various involvements, they could make choices fully informed by evidence. Parents and grandparents wanted transparent reports on the performance of the learning systems which exert such an influence -- such a powerful influence -- on the future of their offspring. They want full information, without filtering by government or leavened by jurisdictional dispute. Employers wanted to know how to build successful training and continuous learning initiatives for employees. Labour, community colleges, new Canadians, and others wanted to know how recognition of prior learning would allow people to progress educationally -- and professionally -- based on their actual competencies; and how we can develop a nationally mobile workforce. From the standpoint of business and labour, we needed national perspectives, national solutions, to issues of workplace learning, so that we actually create the conditions for innovation and productivity. But the Summit was not just about innovation and productivity; not just about learning to do. It was also about learning to be and learning to live together. Non-governmental organizations spoke to the role of learning in social cohesion. Aboriginal groups asked why it appeared to some acceptable that there was no discernible national strategy for aboriginal education. Others asked how we can tolerate unacceptably high levels of adult semi-literacy. Groups interested in early childhood observed that there exists important differences between daycare on the one hand and early childhood learning on the other; and that we needed to replace rhetoric - which we had in abundance - with results. There is no criticism or blame to be assigned. We are not in crisis. But we do need to recognize realities. Canada is unique through the absence in this country of a central government political accountability for education. But we could still offer ourselves adequate national capacity to assess progress in all the various ways in which learning occurs. Those who identify shared problems -- and especially those who propose national solutions for those problems -- needed somewhere to turn. The problems which they identified just stubbornly refused to confine themselves within provincial borders. So, just to take a few examples: Because we wish to be sensitive to jurisdiction, does that mean that workers must accept a faster decline in literacy than in other developed countries? Does this mean that we will never systematically use our public schools as community learning centres open to all generations? Does this suggest that we will not support pan-Canadian strategies for healthy children in healthy schools? And does failure to develop a national aboriginal education strategy mean that First Nations people will be denied achievement at the highest possible level? The answer of the participants at the Summit, the answer of so many Canadians that I have heard, and the answer of the Canadian Council on Learning is an emphatic NO. We can and must do better, working within the constitutional distribution of powers currently in place in Canada. Distilling all of this imperative into a mission and a mandate, the intent of CCL is to provide the pan-Canadian tools so that we can progress in learning; so that we do not fall behind, individually and collectively. So I'd like to speak briefly then, to what the tools are, what our priorities will be and how we will actually structure our work so that we achieve this, as a nation. The vision that you have heard me speak to is one of linking the country in two ways: linking the country physically, in an east-west architecture (we can use other metaphors - a train or roadmap) but also linking the various parts of the learning system so that it actually is cohesive and works. The way we'll do that, in terms of the tools that we will provide, will be with respect to the following three tools or functions: The first is research and knowledge mobilization. What do I mean by knowledge mobilization? I mean that the research will be used in order to identify the issues we think we actually need to know in order to move learning forward in this country so it is action research, not academic research; not pure research. The second is monitoring and reporting. We start with the premise that it is useful and necessary to know what happens at national level - not just at regional or provincial levels - to the extent that when we monitor and report on what is happening at national level, the problems will be identified at national level; the solutions will suggest themselves and will have the kind of pan-Canadian unity and purpose we really need. Among other things, we will develop a Composite Learning Index for Canada by the end of 2005 that will broadly represent how we are doing in learning, not to compare among provinces or territories, but to provide benchmarks by which we can judge ourselves and our progress, over time, in all of the key areas. The third element is knowledge transfer, that is, the sharing of practices that work - or don't work - the lessons learned from our country and other countries. We are a wonderful country in terms of the creativity that people have, the models that they develop locally, but we haven't been as good about sharing the models that work and systematizing them across this great land. Those are the three functions that we know - those are the components, the tools, we will be putting forward. We are not doing it in the form of a think tank. We are much more ambitious than that at CCL. We are doing it in terms of an architecture because we want to work with partners so that they have the empowerment and the resources to put forward the kinds of solutions we will need. That means that we are not a policy body. We are not there to prescribe to unions or employers, governments or learning organizations what they should do but we're there to help provide the evidence upon which they can base their policy decisions. If we can do that, it is much more powerful than simply proclaiming what should be done ourselves. Others will proclaim what should be done, on the basis of the work we do, using the information that we will provide. It shouldn't surprise you to learn that the priorities we have are the same priorities, for various reasons, where we haven't been doing very well. These are also, however, the emerging domains in learning that all developed countries find to be so important; the domains that will generate the kind of progress needed in both an economic and a social sense. These are also areas in which there is urgency because we haven't been doing as well as we could and often these are areas which have fallen into the 'inter-jurisdictional divide'. These are named here, at the bottom of this chart, as clusters and themes; clusters and themes because they are quite broad and can be analyzed and worked on individually, in the various ways I have previously described. Work and Learning is a Knowledge Centre (a cluster, a theme) where we need to make progress. The theme of Early Childhood Learning - which I talked about earlier in terms of the rhetoric that we have there - is another theme where we need to move forward. Adult Learning is an issue separate from Work and Learning in the sense that not all learning occurs in the work place for adults and many things can be done in that area. Aboriginal Learning I don't think I need to explain; it speaks for itself. Health and Learning, is an important, obvious relationship in that learning is such an key determinant of health outcomes. We need to see how the two can work together. Each Knowledge Centre will be located in a particular geographic space in Canada but each will be a national network of excellence in their particular area. One of the processes we will be involved in shortly is identifying which of the five regions in Canada will welcome and will establish each of these Centres. Each of these Knowledge Centres - for each of these five themes - will work in all of the three components that I've mentioned:
Working in these three areas then, in a way that is interactive, will be the task of all of these five Knowledge Centres. There will be a sixth Knowledge Centre, in collaboration with Statistics Canada and the Council of Ministers of Education - through the Canadian Education Statistics Council - which does excellent work in indicators in education, particularly in the formal education systems. In addition to these six Knowledge Centres, five of which will be in particular geographic spaces, we will need to work internationally. We have partners and partnerships that we will need to develop with the OECD in particular, on the impact of research, policy and practice of learning. We will have strategic initiatives which will cut across these five themes in areas like different cultural learning styles or electronic learning and we will want to evaluate our impact as we go. Our impact has to be seen, it has to be real and it has to be on learners. And one of the questions I've been asking myself - and to which I think I have some answers - is how will we know if we're making a difference? My final point is about our relationships to government. CCL is an independent, non-profit corporation and that is fundamental to its ability to work in the way we had described. It is not a policy shop but it will be supportive of policy objectives that government has, that employers have, that labour unions have, that organizations have, providing the evidence through research, through monitoring and through reporting. We hope the relationship with the Council of Ministers of Education will be to support the national policy thrusts that they have. The CMEC is interested in helping to promote schools on a national basis; our health and learning knowledge centre should be helpful in that regard. I think that applies to all of the areas of our emphasis. We should be supportive of policy objectives of the federal government, which surely wants to monitor how we are doing over time in Aboriginal learning, in how we are doing in health and learning, how we are doing in early childhood learning - that we will not only have just a day care or child care program but that we will want to monitor how learning transpires through all of that process. And finally, I think we will have an important role in the federal-provincial context in Canada of convening people and convening governments to discussions in a neutral forum. A forum where we can actually talk about joint objectives between levels of government and other interveners in the learning system where it will be easier for those discussions to take place than during the kinds of provincial/federal discussions we often have where there is much emphasis on jurisdictional territory. These are some of the roles that CCL will have with respect to the relationship with governments. There is much more that can be said about how these Knowledge Centres will be established, much more about the philosophy but I think the most important thing for me to do now is to leave it there and answer questions that you may have. Thank you very much.
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