President and CEO

Taking Stock of Lifelong Learning in Canada (2005-2010): Progress or Complacency?

Message from the President and CEO

August 25, 2010

On March 30, 2010, the Canadian Council on Learning (CCL) met with parliamentarians from all political parties to discuss the state of lifelong learning in Canada. The event, Taking Stock: Lifelong Learning in Canada 2005–2010, attracted nearly two-dozen MPs and senators who engaged in a thought-provoking discussion with CCL staff and myself.

As Canada’s only national organization reporting to citizens in every corner of the land on progress in all phases of learning across the lifecycle (from early childhood through K-12 education, post-secondary education, workplace and adult literacy and learning) CCL serves as catalyst towards a national discussion on the social and economic importance of learning.

This report is a reaction to—and an expansion of—the Taking Stock event and provides Canadians the information and analysis that we shared on that day, fleshed out with richer detail and context.

It is universally acknowledged that learning, as defined broadly to encompass much more than school-based education, is a main driver of many attributes that societies value: individual opportunity and development, productivity, innovation, prosperity, and social cohesion. That was the reasoning behind the Government of Canada’s 2006 “Knowledge Advantage” initiative that promised to provide Canadians a “leg up” in a fiercely competitive global environment.

But have we made the progress anticipated in building a “knowledge advantage?” Are there domains in which we are surpassing other members countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)? Where are we falling behind?

For years CCL has emphasized that past results do not guarantee future success. The fundamental issue if whether Canada is establishing conditions for future international competitiveness in knowledge and learning. Is Canada making the progress in lifelong learning that will differentiate societies that flourish from those that flounder, or have we—at our peril—become complacent?

When we stood before parliamentarians in March, 2010, to elucidate our findings, conclusions and recommendations, our goal was to provide decision-makers with the information and analysis they need to develop effective approaches to learning. It is the only means of keeping Canada competitive in the global, knowledge-based economy. We gave them some good news, but we were also frank about the bad news. This included the fact that Canada, unlike many OECD countries, possesses no coherent, cohesive or coordinated national approach to education and lifelong learning. Our international competitors either already have one, or are working diligently to create one. That means that as we stand still, we are losing ground. We insisted, bluntly, that Canada put its house in order and described the consequences of failing to recognise the urgency to act, as well as some attractive alternatives, leading to improvement in learning outcomes that are open to this country.

This Taking Stock report is intended to provide more than a summation of CCL’s research and analysis. We believe that this report offers an important opportunity to translate the rhetoric of lifelong learning into action that can make a difference.

 

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