Canadian Fed Watch! News Across The Nation:

January 22, 2003

Ontario Planning to be Unprepared

The Ontario Government has recently announced (SEE: http://www.newswire.ca/government/ontario/english/releases/January2003/17/c0997.html)how they have prepared the Universities to handle the combined grade 13 and grade 12 classes that will both be graduating this year.

The Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities, Dianne Cunningham says in this report “I am pleased to report that the preliminary numbers are within our plans”. These plans call for just under 62,000 students to be starting University this year.

Unfortunately, it seems that the actual number could easily go as high as 70,000 students when you consider that over 100,000 students have applied, and typically 65-70% of them go on to actually attend post-secondary education. So if the preliminary numbers are within their plans, one has to ask what exactly was being planned for. Were they planning on under-funding the Universities from the beginning?

Of course, in the January 18th issue of the National Post (SEE: http://www.nationalpost.com/search/site/story.asp?id=2F62F0CD-57BA-4295-9311-8E80A316A671), the day after the government announcement, Minister Cunningham is quoted as saying “We are prepared to go beyond our plan. We’ve always said we’re optimistic. We’ve always said if [students] are willing and qualified, there will be a place.” So being an optimist in the Ontario government meant assuming that fewer students than ever, a mere 60% of applicants, would go on to attend University?

On the bright side, it seems that the public is finally starting to catch up to the government’s chronic under-funding of universities, as a poll released last Friday showed that over 72% of Ontario citizens felt that universities were not receiving enough resources to handle the enrolment surge, and further that nearly half of those surveyed felt the blame lies at the foot of the provincial government, and not at the Universities.

In the meantime, Universities are responding in their own way. Since tuitions are regulated, a common way to affect how many people get in is by increasing the grades that are required to enter. This has the net effect of barring many students that may have qualified previously, but due to the restricted resources, no longer do. Fortunately for the Ontario government, every student that does not get in because of a higher university standard they can claim was not a qualified student, so did not have to be budgeted for and does not mean they have broken their promise.

This policy of increasing the required grades is actually being echoed all across the country, as reported earlier in the National Post(SEE: http://www.nationalpost.com/search/site/story.asp?id=D98B06A4-118F-4955-A53A-F4982F91C5FE). This has the serious downside in that it means students perfectly capable of doing well through a university program are not being given that chance. Since Statistics Canada has shown us how being highly educated correlates with being more productive, being in better health, and relying less on government services in the long run, this is a loss for all of us.

Nova Scotia Hurrying to Hire

The government of Nova Scotia recently announced(SEE: http://www.gov.ns.ca/news/details.asp?id=20030117007) that they will be holding job fairs in the Mount Saint Vincent University to hire teachers. Specifically, they state that the job fair is “designed to help school boards recruit new teachers before other provinces do.” Additional fairs are planned for other locations in Nova Scotia, as well as some in New Brunswick. It seems that Nova Scotia, at least, is well aware of the upcoming shortage of good teachers. Unfortunately, this method of coping with it is only a short-term fix.

Ideally what we need is for governments across the country to realize that teachers and educators really are the backbone of a modern society. We should never be in a position where schools have to face a shortage of teachers, as that only encourages them to hire people who simply are not the best ones for the job. Rather, teachers should be considered as important as medical personnel, and rewarded in the same fashion. There should always be more people trying to become teachers than we actually have room for, as this means we can ensure that our children get their education from the very best educators.

I will not blame the Nova Scotia government for what they are doing. In fact, by spreading out early, they are working to guarantee their citizens the benefits that the best teachers can bring – unfortunately, it will only wind up hurting the other provinces when they realize that the teacher shortage is already upon them.

Maybe we can convince Premier Jon Hamm to take his job fairs down to the United States instead. Americans always seem to react fiercely to competition, so it could be a win-win situation in that it finally goads the United States to better value its own teachers.

A native Calgarian, Karl is perpetually nearing the completion of his Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Information Studies. He also works for the Computer Sciences Virtual Helpdesk for Athabasca University and plans to eventually go on to tutor and obtain his Master’s Degree.

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