On Canada Day 2011, Governor General David Johnston expressed a clear and compelling vision for Canada “where learning and innovation are strengthened to provide for a prosperous tomorrow”. On July 2, while presenting the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, His Excellency encouraged Canadians to “think of ways to build a smarter, more caring, nation”.

His words are synonymous with the mission of the Canadian Council on Learning whose mandate has been to help build a national learning architecture. As the Governor General so clearly attested, learning lies at the heart of individual development. It is the foundation of collective prosperity, well-being and social cohesion. It is a bond to cement segments of great countries and vast spaces like those of our own country.

In the future, successful societies will be those that today recognize the value of learning and are making efforts to build the skills, attitudes and knowledge—not only among our youth, but also among our very young and those who have already made a lifetime working contribution.

Since its founding in 2004, the Canadian Council on Learning has acted as a significant force for improvement of learning conditions in every part of this land. With its federal funding completely withdrawn on March 31, 2010, the Canadian Council on Learning now prepares to cease its activities in spring 2012.

As we do so, we are setting clearly before Canadians our principal conclusions and frankly stating the daunting challenges that Canada must successfully meet to be that successful society of the future. Our legacy statements must begin with an observation that we have emphasized repeatedly over the past six years: while Canada does possess strengths in lifelong learning and education, we are not setting the conditions for future success. On the contrary. We are not in practice reflecting Mr. Johnston’s shining vision of “building a smarter nation”.

In many domains of learning across the life cycle, we are falling behind competitor countries, both in established and emerging economies. In some fields in which we began with a head start, we have lost the initiative and the lead. Canada is slipping down the international learning curve.

The main challenges for lifelong learning in Canada may be stated as a series of crucial questions:

1) What specific steps will be required to improve each stage of learning?

2) Upon closure of the Canadian Council of learning, how will Canadians be provided with transparent, authoritative and independent information and analysis of learning conditions in this country? The Canadian Council of learning was founded precisely because of the demand by civil society for just such a function.

3) What mechanisms are required to ensure that levels of government co-operate fully, — as they now fail to do, — in the interests of the learning futures of Canadians of all ages?

4) How can Canadian publics, institutions, industry, and governments work together to reverse present regressive trends and create conditions for future success?

What is the Future of Learning in Canada
Final Report of the Canadian Council of Learning 2011 – PDF

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