The Learning Partnership publishes action agenda on education



    Identifies recommendations and best practices from cross-country
    discussions in current edition of The Quality of Public Education in
    Canada

    TORONTO, Sept. 26 /CNW/ - Federal and provincial policy makers, educators
and community leaders must develop a more collaborative and cohesive strategy
to address demographic challenges that pose serious risks to Canada's public
education system.
    This integrated approach emerged as a key theme from a national series of
roundtable discussions, which examined the effect of immigration as well as
Aboriginal and rural populations on Canadian classrooms. A report from The
Learning Partnership, entitled Demographic Changes and their Impact on Public
Education, formed the basis of the discussions. As well, in the current
edition of The Quality of Public Education in Canada, recommendations and best
practices from cross-country discussions are highlighted.
    "Public education is a crucial part of our country's fabric and more than
ever before, it is important we realize that our education system is as much
about fostering social cohesion in our society as it is about establishing our
economic future," says Veronica Lacey, President and CEO of The Learning
Partnership. "By sharing the research and engaging Canadians in a discussion
we can address the impact of demographic changes and develop the tools that
will strengthen the cornerstones of our public education system so that every
child has the chance to succeed."
    Hosted by school boards, universities, educational associations and
community organizations, the 11 roundtables have produced an "action agenda"
designed to enhance educational outcomes among these diverse groups and, in
turn, improve the economic prospects of individuals, families and the nation
as a whole. A summary of policy recommendations can be found at
www.thelearningpartnership.ca.

    Filling the cracks

    A student's educational experience can be compromised due to fragmented
policy jurisdictions, according to Don Drummond, Chief Economist of TD Bank
Financial Group and co-chair of The Learning Partnership project. "For
instance, the federal government largely drives the immigration system but the
integration and education of newly-arriving families and their children
largely falls onto local communities and their school boards with little
overall consideration of resource requirements."
    Mr. Drummond added that Aboriginal students can also fall through
jurisdictional cracks, given that the federal government is responsible for
those living on reserves and provinces are responsible for those living off
reserves. "Given the tremendous amount of mobility, there is a lot of
cross-over but not necessarily continuity between the two jurisdictions. We
need to do a better job at addressing the educational needs of these students,
regardless of their location or circumstance."
    Levels of educational attainment underscore the severity of the problem.
Thirty per cent of Aboriginal youth, for instance, drop out of school - double
the general population rate. A fault line also exists among immigrant
populations. The success of some groups may mask underperformance by other
non-English or French-speaking groups.

    The economic imperative

    Research conducted by The Learning Partnership suggests immigrants,
Aboriginals, and rural residents face barriers that often exclude them from
the labour market, or that result in under-utilizing their skills. This costs
the Canadian economy between $72 billion and $236 billion a year, or six to 20
percent of Gross Domestic Product. Given the aging population, it is critical
to ensure these large pools of people are fully utilized to generate the
wealth and revenues required to support vital services such as health care.
    Participants of the roundtable also stressed the important role education
can play in helping lower-income families break the cycle of poverty. This is
particularly relevant to immigrants, aboriginals and rural residents, who fare
less well economically than other Canadians, according to The Learning
Partnership report. Education is a "social equalizer", which provides the best
opportunities to address the economic shortfall of these groups, and in
particular for the young generation now growing up.
    Rapid changes in the ethnic, cultural, linguistic and socio-economic
characteristics of our students, however, place new and unprecedented
challenges on teachers. With no additional resources, many must find ways to
connect with students who are unable to speak either official language, nor
are familiar with mainstream Canadian society and culture. And in the case of
rural communities, teachers must contend with fewer resources and range of
courses as their urban counterparts.

    Top of the class

    Despite these and other related challenges, teachers have performed
admirably well, overcoming adversity with innovative solutions. Through its
roundtable discussions, which The Learning Partnership recognized best
practices undertaken by a number of schools and school districts which are
already addressing the diverse needs of their students and communities -
whether they be in a remote part of Nunavut or in an urban setting like
Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto or Halifax.
    "Canada's public school teachers have demonstrated exceptional leadership
in overcoming adversity," said Veronica Lacey, president and CEO, The Learning
Partnership. "It's a testament to their character and to their professional
commitment. Yet we need the support of other stakeholders, working together to
provide our teachers with the resources to create the best learning
environment for all of our students."
    Already, in Edmonton for example, the school board offers full bilingual
education in seven languages: American Sign Language, Arabic, Mandarin,
German, Hebrew, Spanish and Ukrainian. More than two dozen schools offer half
of each day's programming in the target language, and the other half in
English.

    Established in 1993, The Learning Partnership is a national
not-for-profit organization dedicated to championing a strong public education
system in Canada through innovative programs, credible research, policy
initiatives and public engagement. Since its inception, more than three
million students and teachers have participated in one or more of TLP's
programs, including Welcome to Kindergarten(TM), Take Our Kids to Work(TM) and
Canada's Outstanding Principals. For information on TLP, log onto
www.thelearningpartnership.ca.





For further information:

For further information: or to arrange an interview: George James, The
Learning Partnership, (416) 440-5124 (w) or (416) 402-3783 (c),
gjames@thelearningpartnership.ca

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