Sunday, October 08, 2006

Demographic shifts & education

The Toronto Star reports (no link):
More than half of Canadians - and more than 60 per cent of Ontarians - believe immigration is the biggest issue affecting the education system today, a new poll finds.
The poll, conducted in August for The Learning Partnership as part of its demographic study, also found that one in five Canadians believe rural-to-urban migration is also affecting public education.
Random fact of interest: Don Drummond, TD economist, is head of The Learning Partnership steering committee.
Here are a couple excerpts from the group's recent report, The Changing Face of Canada’s Public Education System :
At the Learning Partnership, we believe that major demographic shifts occurring in our society pose challenges and opportunities for the public education system. Those changes are occurring in the areas of immigration, aboriginal population growth, and rural/urban migration. The ethnic, cultural, linguistic and socio-economic characteristics of our students are changing, in many parts of the country.

Other countries are also experiencing demographic changes, and the results have in some cases torn the fabric of those societies. This spring, we watched cars burn and disenfranchised young people riot in the streets of Paris, in part over proposals to cut back on the social contract France has with its citizens. In Germany and Japan, two developed countries with aging populations and less expansive immigration policies than Canada, there is growing concern that immigrants are marginalized and disenfranchised. Here in Canada, the crisis in the Middle East sparked an outcry over what it means to be a Canadian, as some voices questioned the costs and the responsibility of our government to rescue dual citizens from war-torn Lebanon. In Caledonia, Ontario a community is rupturing along racial lines as residents line up over the issue of land claims and property rights. In more remote communities, far from the headlines, aboriginal young people continue to face an epidemic of poverty with suicide and unemployment rates that dwarf the national average.
* * * *
A 2002 study for Human Resources Development Canada concluded that women, visible minorities, Aboriginals and people with disabilities make up more than 50 percent of Canada’s skilled population. (Close to 80 percent of all immigrants to Canada are visible minorities). But many of these groups face barriers that keep them out of the labour market, or under-utilize their skills. The cost to Canada of those barriers is between $72 billion and $236 billion a year: the equivalent of six to 20 percent of our Gross Domestic Product. A recent University of Toronto Rotman School of Business study states that Canada would have an additional 75 billion dollars a year for important programs if the US/Canada productivity gap could be closed.

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