HALIFAX, July 6, 2012 /CNW/ - Provincial and territorial ministers of education were in Halifax this week for the 100th meeting of their long-standing intergovernmental body, the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC).
Ministers used the occasion of their 100th meeting to celebrate provincial and territorial cooperation in education and to further discussions on current challenges and opportunities related to the delivery of high-quality education in the 21st century.
Speaking at the close of the meeting, the Honourable Ramona Jennex, Chair of CMEC and Minister of Education for Nova Scotia, noted that the exclusive jurisdiction of provinces and territories over education has favoured, and continues to favour, both high achievement and high equity of outcomes among Canadian students. "Canada is in a very advantageous position," she said. "Our decentralized education systems allow us to deliver education in a way that meets the different needs of very diverse student populations in what is a vast and complex country. Our systems are incubators of innovation and are able to adapt quickly and effectively to the needs of 21st-century learners."
Twenty-first century learning was the defining theme of the Halifax meeting, where ministers exchanged on a number of education-related topics.
Bullying: Safe Schools and a Culture of Respect and Care
Ministers shared information on anti-bullying initiatives in schools and strategies on how best to ensure a safe, inclusive, and accepting environment for all students. Particular attention was paid to the issue of cyberbullying and its negative effect on student success and well-being, both in and outside the classroom. Ministers discussed the importance of tackling the root causes of bullying so that every student ― regardless of race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, religion, gender, or gender identity ― feels accepted at school.
"With advancements in communications technologies, the environment in which teaching and learning occurs is changing rapidly. Canada's provinces and territories are already global leaders in educational achievement and in equity, but there are always new challenges to face. While each province and territory is working with its education community in its own way to counter bullying, all ministers of education are united in their commitment to ensuring that schools in Canada provide a safe and welcoming environment for all students," said the Chair of CMEC.
Ministers agreed to continue to share best practices on bullying through CMEC's national and international networks to ensure that provincial and territorial education systems remain at the forefront of work in this area.
Aboriginal Education: Moving forward
Aboriginal education continued to feature prominently in discussions at CMEC. Ministers reiterated their commitment to improving outcomes for Aboriginal learners through individual provincial and territorial initiatives, in cooperation with local stakeholders, and at the pan-Canadian level, through CMEC.
Ministers were pleased to welcome the Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Justice Sinclair provided ministers with an update on the important work of the commission.
"On behalf of all my colleagues at CMEC, I want to thank Justice Sinclair for the important work he and his colleagues are doing in the service of equity and justice for Aboriginal peoples," said the Honourable Jackson Lafferty, Minister of Education, Culture and Employment for Northwest Territories.
It was noted that provinces and territories are looking forward to discussions with the federal government on Aboriginal education, including discussions on the measures announced in the recent federal budget.
Education in the 21st century: Challenges and Opportunities
Ministers recognize that education and postsecondary systems and institutions must adapt to a rapidly changing environment, to equip students with the skills and training needed for an increasingly demanding labour market and to support citizens in the face of evolving social, economic, and environmental challenges.
In keeping with the role of CMEC as a forum for sharing information on innovative policy and practice in education, ministers discussed a variety of issues, including: the diverse needs of the 21st century inclusive classroom, the role of the teaching profession in the provision of public education, innovative postsecondary education systems, and open-education resources (OER).
Ministers recognized the value of these exchanges at a pan-Canadian level and agreed to use existing CMEC networks to ensure that provinces and territories remain at the forefront of global trends related to innovative policies and practices, notably those related to the delivery of postsecondary education.
With regard to OER, ministers reaffirmed their commitment to open access to knowledge and education and to the need to adapt teaching and learning practices to the new realities of the information age. They agreed that there was an urgent need for provinces and territories to explore how to take advantage of the opportunities provided by new communications technologies in order to improve the availability of learning opportunities and materials at all levels of education and for all learners.
International Education: Representing Canada
As Canada's voice for education, CMEC plays a leadership role on the world stage. Ministers shared the lessons they had learned through representing Canada at recent international meetings of education ministers, including meetings hosted by OECD, the Organization of American States (OAS), and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) body. They also discussed the importance of engaging their counterparts from other countries to ensure that the experiences of provinces and territories in education are shared and that the performance of Canadian students can be benchmarked against international standards. Ministers reiterated the importance of respecting the understandings concluded between CMEC and the federal government on Canada's participation at international meetings to ensure participation is optimal.
Ministers also focused on their continuing efforts to promote international student mobility and ensure that Canada remains a preferred destination for students from abroad, including their collective efforts to implement the recommendations of the International Education Marketing Action Plan, published last summer by the Council of the Federation.
Provincial and territorial ministers repeated their invitation to federal ministers to discuss with them how efforts in the areas of international trade, foreign affairs, and immigration could support provinces and territories in the implementation of the action plan, with each partner drawing from their respective sphere of jurisdiction and expertise.
"International education is about sharing with and learning from the rest of world," said Minister Jennex. "We look forward to working with the federal government, through CMEC, to make Canada a destination of choice for international students and to ensure that young Canadians have increasing opportunity to study abroad."
Early Childhood Learning and Development: Beginning the Journey of Lifelong Learning
While in Halifax, ministers discussed the recent experience of provinces and territories in bringing together early childhood learning and development to create a seamless continuum of learning from the early years through to formal public schooling. Ministers also recognized the importance of engaging children through purposeful play-based learning as a means to achieving quality outcomes for early learners.
Provinces and territories will continue to exercise their collective leadership in early learning by working with their partners across sectors, both in Canada and internationally, so that all children have access to high-quality learning experiences in their formative years.
Founded in 1967, CMEC is the collective voice of Canada's ministers of education. It provides leadership in education at the pan-Canadian and international levels and contributes to the exercise of the exclusive jurisdiction of provinces and territories over education. For more information, visit us at www.cmec.ca.
For further information:
Tel.: 416-962-8100, ext. 259