Education Encyclopedia - » Education Encyclopedia: AACSB International - Program to Septima Poinsette Clark (1898–1987)

Canada - Influences On The Educational Systems, Twentieth-Century Developments, The Place Of Education In The Society

canadian public university percent

As in all immigrant societies, the spread of formal education in Canada followed a predictable pattern as religious orders and missions attempted to "civilize" both the aboriginal and the settler communities. All levels of formal education from the seventeenth century onward had their roots in Catholicism, Anglicanism, and after 1763, when the British assumed control, a whole range of protestant denominations. Dramatic change occurred in 1867 with the enactment of the Constitution Act (formerly the British North American Act) when the principle of secular and separate systems of education funded by the state was accepted throughout Canada with a few significant exceptions. Section 98 of the act allocated exclusive jurisdiction for education to the provinces. This division of constitutional powers has remained in place and has been the basis for a degree of tension between the federal government and the ten provincial governments. The federal government is responsible for education in the three northern territories. With regard to public education, Canadians subscribe to three common social and educational values: equality of access, equality of opportunity, and cultural pluralism.

Influences On The Educational Systems

According to Rodney Clifton, Canada is the "only country without a national office of education: all other nations, including all other federated nations, have national offices of education that coordinate and/or administer various aspects of their educational system" (p. 7). While there are many similarities among Canada's systems of education, they have each developed in unique ways. These systems are profoundly influenced by the distribution of the population of 31 million across the vast country, which covers four and one-half time zones. More than 80 percent of Canadians live in urban centers within 100 miles of the border with the United States.

Canadian society has developed as a mosaic of peoples, beginning with aboriginal populations and then followed by French, British, and other European settlement. Canada has two official languages: English is the mother tongue of 61 percent of the population, and French is the mother tongue of 26 percent. Most French speakers live in Quebec, where they make up 82 percent of the population, but there are also many French speakers in New Brunswick, Ontario, and Manitoba. Education is available in both official languages, but to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the region. In the last two decades of the twentieth century, immigrants from all parts of the world were attracted to Canada, with the largest proportion coming from Asia.

The patterns of immigration have had an enormous impact on the structure and organization of educational systems. Although the systems of the western provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia followed the patterns laid down in Ontario, more emphasis was placed on meeting the needs of all people, not just Anglicans and Catholics. While "separate" (Catholic) publicly funded schools were resisted in Manitoba, by World War II only British Columbia, out of the ten provinces, maintained a secular system of education. This stance was modified in 1977, when the province began providing subsidy to private and independent schools. In 1998 Newfoundland abandoned denominational education and became the only province with a secular system.

The French tradition and language have dominated educational systems in Quebec and parts of New Brunswick and Manitoba. Since the "Quiet Revolution" in Quebec in the 1960s and the adoption of a bilingual and multicultural policy at the federal level in the 1970s, French culture has become part of all Canadian educational systems. The challenge has been to privilege the "founding" cultures while at the same time recognizing aboriginal peoples and the vast range of other cultures that form Canadian society. The complexities that come with geography, immigration, and settlement gave rise to socialization processes that placed great emphasis on the role of education in molding Canadian citizens.

Twentieth-Century Developments

The "Great Transformation" in Canadian society, as it was dubbed by Karl Polanyi in 1944, is very much a twentieth-century phenomena. Mass public education that was free and compulsory through high school had become the norm by the 1950s. Public education is provided free to all Canadian citizens and permanent residents until the end of secondary school, normally at eighteen. The ages for compulsory schooling vary from one jurisdiction to another, but generally it is required from age six or seven to age sixteen. As the federal government assumed more responsibility for funding university education from the mid-1950s and recognized the importance of human capital, so the systems of higher education expanded. Expansion of the university system and the development of parallel college systems changed the nature of higher education in Canada. By 1976 every province was operating a binary system of universities and colleges, and furthermore the number of universities offering graduate programs had risen to forty-seven from the 1960 level of twenty-eight.

As in other countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the baby boom generation flooded into the higher education system in the 1960s and the early 1970s. Enrollment continued to expand into the 1990s, but over the next decade it reached a plateau and then began to decline. Between 1991–1992 and 1999–2000, university full-time enrollment decreased from approximately 580,000 to 540,000, while part-time enrollment fell from 280,000 to 240,000. Between 1992–1993 and 1999–2000, full-time community college enrollment increased from approximately 360,000 to 400,000. Part-time community college enrollment declined from approximately 180,000 to 90,000. Furthermore, the gender balance has been reversed so that women are in the majority at the undergraduate level in both community colleges and universities and at parity with men at the graduate level.

The federal government had, through the incremental development of a science and technology policy, created an elaborate structure for funding and supporting research. In addition to the three national funding councils, which were established in the late 1970s and cover all the disciplines and fields represented in the academy, the government created other programs, such as the Networks of Centres of Excellence, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and the Canada Research Chairs.

Education in Canada has traditionally been a public enterprise. Private or independent schools educate approximately 5 percent of the school-age population. Although these schools do generally follow the curriculum and diploma requirements of their jurisdiction, they function independently of the public system and charge fees. Five provinces–Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec, and Saskatchewan–provide some form of financial assistance to these schools. Prior to the 1990s, higher education was almost totally a public enterprise. During that decade the number of private institutions offering vocational and degree programs increased dramatically. Four provinces–Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and New Brunswick–have passed legislation to allow for the establishment of private universities.

The Place Of Education In The Society

As an institutional form, education occupies a unique place in Canadian society. By the late 1960s, education had become a central legitimating institution in the modern Canadian state. Between 1960 and 1995–1996, the cost of public education increased from $1.7 billion to almost $60 billion. One in fourteen employed Canadians work in education, and 25 percent of the total population is involved with education. Public education is a major industry involving approximately 16,000 elementary and secondary schools, 200 postsecondary colleges, 75 universities and university colleges, 300,000 teachers, and 60,000 instructors and professors.

Relative to other developed countries, Canada invests a substantial amount on education. At all levels of education, Canadian expenditure per student is second highest (after the United States) among the G-7 countries (the other G-7 members being France, Italy, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom) and is substantially above the OECD average. Canada's educational expenditure of 7 percent of gross domestic product is the highest level among the G-7 countries and is one of the highest in the OECD. Eighty percent of Canada's adult population has completed upper-secondary (referred to as high school in North America) or postsecondary education. This is much higher than the OECD average of 64 percent. Fifty-two percent of the adult population has completed postsecondary education. This rate is the highest in the OECD and double the OECD average. Yet it should be noted that this ranking is due to the very high proportion of the population that is enrolled in nonuniversity postsecondary education.

By the mid-1990s, Canadian governments had created a mass postsecondary system. With a participation rate of more than 40 percent for eighteen-to twenty-one-year-olds, Canada ranked first among OECD nations. The system can be characterized as soft federalism. While the federal government has since the 1950s shouldered a significant portion of the bill for universities, constitutionally the responsibility has remained with the provinces. The level of institutional autonomy enjoyed by universities is probably more pronounced in Canada than in any other OECD country. The public monopoly over the binary structure (colleges and universities) accounts for the limited competition and the perceived equivalence among credentials across the country. This state public system is relatively homogeneous and, as a vestige of its roots in the United Kingdom and France, is still committed to the ethos of liberal education rather than vocationalism.

Issues And Problems

The key issues and problems facing the Canadian education systems are as follows: deprofessionalization; the dominance of a political-economic imperative in the formulation of state educational policy (accountability, privatization, market, choice, and decentralization); multiculturalism and diversity; restructuring and retrenchment; and the demographic changes facing all industrialized nations.

As governments have limited the size of the "public space" in Canadian society, so necessarily the ideals of professionalism have come under attack. On the one hand, the creation of professional "colleges of teachers" in British Columbia (in 1986) and in Ontario (in 1996), as well as the current attempts for such undertakings in Quebec, are indicators of the professionalizing trend. Other such initiatives, also present in other provinces (namely, Alberta, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia), aim at raising the standards in teacher training and at better controlling its quality through the definition of standards for training and practice. Yet the discourse of professionalism has in some respects been co-opted by the state and transformed into government by norms. The substitution of credentials for professional practice, while intended to support professionalization, serves instead to undermine it. Credentialism becomes the overriding trend and the substitute for the promotion of professionalism.

In the 1990s, accountability replaced autonomy in discussions of roles within the state. Accountability has also come to mean recognition of the dominance of market ideology. Governments press educational institutions and systems to be more responsive to the economy and to create alliances with the private sector. The accountability models are embedded within the broader, ideological mechanisms–variously characterized as public-sector reform, new public management, and the "evaluative state"–that have accompanied the political-economic transition from welfare state to the global economy.

The severe limitations on public expenditures are linked to the general suspicion of public institutions and a belief in the greater efficiency of free-market forces. The key policy terms that are the symbols of both market and accountability are "choice" and "privatization." The battle against federal and provincial deficits and the adoption of neoliberal assumptions concerning the role of the state has led governments to inflict considerable budget cuts on educational systems while looking to maximize their services. Yet while the position of the provinces got worse, by 2000 the federal government had moved into surplus. Efforts to decentralize responsibility and increase the autonomy of school boards and school staffs has translated into a more significant role for parents, the development of an "in-service training" culture, and the elaboration of school programs that promote the acquisition of competencies required in the new knowledge society. A parent council structure was created in British Columbia in 2002 and was already in place in six other provinces, including Ontario and Quebec.

For a majority of teachers in urban settings, the combination of immigration policy, the longstanding commitment to diversity and multiculturalism and the new emphasis on "inclusion" has created schools very different from the ones that existed in the 1980s. Schools can contain students who speak as many as eighty different languages, a high proportion of ESL (English as a second language) students, and many students with special needs. The increasing cultural and linguistic diversity has become most evident in the three major urban centers, Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. On the other hand, diversity and equality have been safeguarded and extended through the teaching of heritage languages, curriculum design, and the development of programs to combat racism. The development of French-language school boards across the country is a good indicator of this trend.

A major retrenchment and restructuring has occurred throughout Canada as provincial ministries have drastically reduced the number of school boards through amalgamation. These changes have been accompanied by a tightening of control over expenditures at the local level.

Skills and knowledge have become central elements in economic policy as human resource policy has become the modern equivalent of human capital theory in the 1960s. In postsecondary education there has been a growing emphasis on technical and professional programs. Universities are developing closer links with business and industry. Since the late 1980s, the shift has been toward more private and less public expenditure on postsecondary education. Part of this shift is related to the increase in tuition fees, which have more than doubled, but this trend also includes the rise in nongovernmental sources of funding for research.

The most pressing need in Canadian education systems and the society at large is the expected shortfall in the supply of professional personnel. By 2010, Canada will need to replace 50 percent of its teachers, instructors, and professors.


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almost 5 years ago

For an article containing "research", I find it hard to take seriously. It takes three seconds of "research" to find out that Canada actually has 5 and one half time zones. How can we trust your other "research" to be accurate?

Pacific (-8), Mountain(-7), Central(-6), Eastern(-5), Atlantic(-4) & Newfoundland (-3.5) Standard Times.

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about 10 years ago

In Canada, the provinces and territories are responsible for education; thus Canada has no national department of education. Each of the thirteen education systems are similar while reflecting their own regional history, culture and geography.[54] The mandatory school age varies across Canada but generally ranges between the ages of 5-7 to 16-18,[54] contributing to an adult literacy rate that is 99%. Postsecondary education is the responsibility of the provincial and territorial governments that provide most of their funding; the federal government provides additional funding through research grants. In 2002, 43% of Canadians aged between 25 and 64 had post-secondary education; for those aged 25 to 34 the postsecondary attainment reaches 51%

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