On Campus

Are you getting your money’s worth?

Canadians concerned about the value of an education, finds poll

As young people prepare to don caps and gowns this month and take the stage to grab their diplomas, Canadians confess a certain skepticism about the value of an education in this country.

Nearly half of the Canadians polled in a recent Harris-Decima survey said they feel Canada’s educational system does not adequately prepare young people for work in the modern economy.

Albertans are most pessimistic about the system – 52 per cent say they find it inadequate.

Younger Canadians, between the ages of 18-34, are more likely to say it is up to snuff than older respondents.

Nathan Seebaran, a student at Edmonton’s Ross Sheppard High School, says he feels optimistic about the training he’s getting through a registered apprentice program.

He’s studying to become a cabinetmaker and will be doing projects at the University of Alberta as part of his training.

“I was thinking of dropping out of high school because I didn’t really think I needed it, but I’m glad I stayed to do this,” Seebaran said.

Confidence is the hallmark of the so-called “Generation Y,” which is now hitting graduation age, says Harris-Decima vice-president Jeff Walker.

“Part of that self-awareness and self belief of that generation of people is the feeling that they work extremely hard and that the system has been beneficial to them,” said Walker.

When asked to grade different levels of education, Canadians gave high school the lowest marks.

Only 37 per cent felt high school did “very well” or well at preparing young people for the workforce.

Walker said that affected how Canadians see the education system overall.

“What it shows us is that if people perceive that there is even one weak link the system, they really worry that the system isn’t necessarily getting Canada or Canadians to where they need to be.”

The response was more favourable to graduate schools, where 62 per cent thought they were doing well at giving young Canadians the skills and abilities they needed.

Ironically, a recent report by the Science, Technology and Innovation Council noted that high school students are actually performing well in science, math and reading when compared to their peers in other countries.

The report said not enough students are getting science and engineering degrees, or PhDs.

The telephone poll of 1,000 Canadians was conducted between May 21 and May 24. The margin of error was 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

– The Canadian Press

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.