Canada’s postsecondary education (PSE) field
A recent report by the Canadian Council on Learning (2007) provided a view on the current needs for information about the postsecondary field on a national level to increase understanding of its composition, achievements and trends. They offered the disadvantages to not having a pan-Canadian network and framework, but instead leaving the understanding and responsibility of the PSE field to the many provinces. The main disadvantages were to not having a cohesive view of PSE, as well as collective information, trends and needs of the field. This lack of information is impeding decision-makers who must plan for the future and set policy based on trends and acheivements within PSE (for instance, information on student participation such as reasons for enrolment, non-enrolment and attrition, and demographic projections). What is more, they claim because of the lack of field-wide information postsecondary institutions (PSI) and governments are challenged to determine what and if PSI’s are addressing economic and social benefits to society.
Additionally, there lacks a national quality-assurance agency, and a mechanism to assess transfer credits and prior learning. As well, Canada has also been slow to develop a field of e-learning (i.e. a national e-learning strategy: see Parchoma, 2007 paper and online lecture) and education that serves the needs of non-traditional learners.
Basically, Canada is charged with lacking the ability to assess the needs and demands of learners. For instance, apparently students are hestitant to pursue PSE not so much because of financial reasons but information and motivational factors. Without an understanding of the composition of PSE in Canada, how will it be known if student demands for education are being met?
Put together, this is alarming in that each institution must gather their own partial information in order to plan future education. With such a rapidly evolving society, crying for advanced workers (70% of the 1.7 million jobs by 2015 will need postsecondary qualifications) this may become a real problem. In order to keep our high level of education and to plan effectively, we need information of a different sort.