Recent Pedagogy Ideas

Various authors, Nov 13, 2013
Commentary by Stephen Downes

According to a Mcleans article, "Canada has fallen behind or is at risk of falling behind other countries in education and training if we don’t get our act together. That was a common theme at two conferences last week in Toronto, one hosted by The Conference Board of Canada... and the other by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario. Meanwhile, we read that the labour market demands a national education strategy and that education is mismatching students with the needs of the labour market by enrolling too few students in the STEM disciplines in the Globe and Mail. Suggestions range from streaming into vocations to performance-based funding to creating an information website to partnering with billionaires (seriously, that was proposed).

Ken Steele of Academica writes: "Some Bright Ideas for program delivery?  Our Eduvation IdeaBank already includes some innovative approaches to scheduling courses and programs: Fanshawe’s weekend college, Quest’s block method (also being piloted by UNBC), Royal Roads’ boot camp, and Brock’s accelerated supercourses. Comment on these, vote for the brightest, or suggest others you’ve seen that we can add at" (this might actually be an advertisement below some sponsored content - there's no way to tell).

But. While there is a skills mismatch, it is not in trades, but rather, in technical and professional fields. So one wonders why there's such a focus on streaming and trades. Moreover, it's not clear to me that Canada's education system is actually falling behind. Nothing has changed, really, since the same Globe and Mail pointed out that "Canada continues to do damn well, headlines and bad news angles notwithstanding." Sure, people may be choosing degrees "mismatched" to industry - but also, more and more, they are paying for those degrees, so why shouldn't they choose subjects that are interesting to them? If industry needs something from education, it should be prepared to pay for it - shouldn't it? This to me makes far more sense than misguided attempts to dismantle one of the best systems of public education in the world.

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