Atlantic ministers of education plan ‘Strategic Direction’

Priorities include increasing enrolment and number of skilled trades workers

The Council of Atlantic Ministers of Education and Training are making plans for collaboration:

The Atlantic ministers of education and training emerged from meetings in Halifax this week with a commitment to improve literacy rates in Atlantic Canada. Ministers will soon submit a literacy action plan to the Council of Atlantic Premiers that will focus on teacher training, sharing best practices, increasing collaboration among teachers from the Atlantic region, and promoting adult and workplace literacy.

The literacy action plan will form an integral part of the 2009-2012 Strategic Direction which was released by the ministers this week. The strategic direction document outlines steps that departments of education and training will undertake in public and post-secondary education over the next three years.

Public education priorities include school readiness, educational leadership, instructional practices for all students, and numeracy skills, while post-secondary education and training priorities relate to increasing enrolment numbers in post-secondary education institutions, promoting quality assurance of post-secondary education, and increasing the number of skilled trades workers.

Here are the ‘Strategic Areas’ that fall under post-secondary education and training:

Enrolment in Post-Secondary Institutions: Low fertility rates and high out-migration numbers suggest that post-secondary institutions in Atlantic Canada will continue to experience student enrolment issues in the years to come. Data released recently from Statistics Canada shows that three of the four Atlantic provinces have fertility rates below the national average and all have proportionally more senior citizens than the rest of Canada. Statistics Canada records also indicate that, for the period 1994-2004, the population group between the ages of 20 and 34 decreased by approximately 60,000 in the Atlantic region.

Atlantic provinces, individually and collectively, have introduced a number of initiatives to increase the population. These activities have also focused on the attraction and retention of immigrants and of international students. In the area of post-secondary education, some provinces have taken measures to increase the availability of university and community college programs.

Goal: To increase enrolment numbers in Atlantic Canadian post-secondary institutions.

Quality Assurance: Atlantic provinces have structures in place to conduct quality assurance for public post-secondary programs. These systems are in place at both the university and community college sectors. For private trainers, the rules vary from province to province, which lead to inconsistencies.

Goal: To develop a list of quality indicators that will have a base in solid research planning.

Skilled Trades: Some of the provinces in Atlantic Canada have started to reintroduce skilled trades in their public education system. With this change, there will be new opportunities for colleges to partner with the public schools, which may lead to increased enrolment.

Goal: To improve the educational linkages for the apprenticeship program to ensure appropriate level of connections between post-secondary and K-12 systems.

Adult Literacy: Approximately half of adults living in the Atlantic region have below level 3 literacy and/or numeracy skills. This affects their ability to find and improve their employment situation and can add additional strain on their family lives. From this aspect, educators look to improve adult literacy rates from both an employer and community perspective.

Goals: 1. Increasing Awareness –to raise social awareness of the benefits of improving literacy and essential skills and to engage employers and industry groups in program ownership. 2. Learner Recruitment and Retention –to eliminate barriers to learning opportunities and assure relevance and value to the learner.