TORONTO, February 23, 2011 ― Ministers of education are in Toronto this week for the 99th meeting of their long-standing intergovernmental body, the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC), and are meeting today with national Aboriginal organizations (NAOs).
CMEC 99 provided ministers with an opportunity to advance work on the priorities outlined in Learn Canada 2020, their 2008 joint declaration and guiding document. The Toronto meeting focused on early-childhood education, Aboriginal and international education, 21st-century competencies in education, and CMEC’s data and research initiatives.
Early-Childhood Learning and Development
Ministers held a special session on early-childhood learning and development, led by the Honourable Leona Dombrowsky, Minister of Education for Ontario. They confirmed the importance of early learning as one of the four pillars of Learn Canada 2020 and noted the large and growing body of research that shows the positive effect of early learning on children’s overall academic achievement.
Ministers committed to continue knowledge-sharing on early childhood learning and development through CMEC to ensure that all provinces and territories benefit from the learning and innovation taking place throughout the country. “We must ensure that our children are well-prepared from an early age for life’s challenges and opportunities,” said Minister Dombrowsky. “Early learning helps meet the needs of families and sets our children on the path for a stronger future.”
Ministers gave final approval in principle of the CMEC strategy on Aboriginal education, which provides for regionally appropriate work on pan-Canadian Aboriginal-education data collection and research, teacher education, and knowledge transfer among all those involved in Aboriginal education. The plan also calls for ongoing discussion with the federal government on Aboriginal education issues.
Ministers also reviewed plans for a fall 2011 CMEC forum at which participants would share evidence and experiences about what works to improve educational outcomes for Aboriginal learners.
In follow-up to the first meeting between provinces and territories and China’s ministry of education, which was held under the banner of CMEC in September 2010, ministers of education reviewed plans for their upcoming visit to China in June for the second high-level meeting with education officials.
“I am very honoured to be leading our delegation to China later this year,” said the Honourable Diane McGifford, Chair of CMEC and Manitoba’s Minister of Advanced Education and Literacy and Minister responsible for International Education. “Provinces and territories believe international education has emerged as an integral part of Canada’s future in an increasingly knowledge-based, interconnected world. We look forward to continuing our dialogue with China on how to deepen our education cooperation.”
In follow-up to the August 2010 directive from the Council of the Federation (COF), education ministers reviewed a working draft of an international education marketing action plan. The action plan will focus on value-added pan-Canadian initiatives that are aligned with the needs and strategies of each provincial and territorial government and leverage the considerable power of the already established brand for Canadian education, Education au/in Canada. Ministers look forward to continued partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) to attract more international students.
Ministers of education discussed how provinces and territories are addressing the broad range of skills that young people will need to be fully engaged workers and citizens in the knowledge society of the 21st century. Examples include critical thinking, information literacy, collaborative learning, and new modes of civic engagement.
Representatives of the Canadian School Boards Association (CSBA), joined ministers for the discussion and presented the organization’s current priorities, which include 21st-century competencies.
Education Data and Research
Also discussed were the many education data and research initiatives undertaken by CMEC and Statistics Canada in cooperation with federal partners such as Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) and international partners such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Ministers underscored the value of timely and comparable data on education in Canada and the need for sustainable, ongoing federal financial support for data collection and research.
Ministers reviewed results from OECD’s 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Canada remains one of the few countries in the world where high PISA scores and high equity go together. Canadian students not only score in the top tier of participants; the gap between the highest and lowest performing students is relatively small.
“PISA results are a strong endorsement of Canada’s systems of education,” said Minister McGifford. “Our approach to education means that provinces and territories can tailor their education systems to the unique needs of their citizens and use bodies like CMEC to ensure that innovations and successes are shared.”
While in Toronto, provincial and territorial officials continued work on other priorities outlined in Learn Canada 2020, including literacy, and official languages. Officials also discussed CMEC activities related to education for sustainable development.
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 fulfillment of the constitutional jurisdiction for education conferred on the provinces and territories. For more information, visit us at www.cmec.ca
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