Education in Canada is one of the sectors that the government of the Canada spends a lot of resources on regarding financial and technical assistance. Although the education system in Canada is under the directives of the provincial jurisdiction, other agencies like the federal and the local governments also have a significant role to play in the education system. Education in Canada is subdivided into three major levels: primary, secondary and post-secondary levels. Canada has been ranked as the top performing regarding established adequate and effective education system. In this paper, we will examine the education system in Canada and its significance to Canadian image and Canadian identity. We will focus on the government funded schools, the comparison between the Canadian government and other nations like the United States, what elements of Canada are explored and explained in the education system and finally, what makes the Canadian education system uniquely identified with Canada.
Canadian education falls under the jurisdiction of the provincial government system, however, the local and federal governments have few roles to play in the governing and controlling of the education (Holland, 2010: 279). In Canada, education is mandatory to every Canadian citizen up to the age of 16 years; this policy applies to every province in Canada, except in some few provinces like the Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick where there is the age difference (Willms et la., 2009). In the provinces mentioned above, education is compulsory up to the age of 18 years; although, in some provinces there is an exception for people who wish to drop out of school before reaching the mandatory age, education is compulsory in every province in Canada (Chaney, 2012: 32). However, this happens under particular and certain circumstances. Research shows that in every ten young Canadian citizens, there is only one person without the high school diploma certificate, and in every seven persons there is one person without a university degree (Chaney, 2012).
The case is a bit different with the adults situation, this is because of the immigrant issues. One may find a large group of Canadian adult without high school diploma, and as research shows, this might have resulted from the combination of immigrants and Canadian-born (Brydon, 2001). However, this has recently changed with the rise in demand of skilled personnel in the job market (Martin, 2009), this has resulted in the drop in the ratio of the high school graduates and the non-diploma holders that has long existed in Canada especially in the 1980s and 90s. Due to the demand of more skilled manpower in the job market, the government has been forced to design some other short courses to favor the non-diploma holders (Lassig, 2009: 18), for example, offering public funded high school courses to serve the adult population without a high school diploma that is very significant (Elchardus et al., 2013). Despite the governments attempt to help the adult non-diploma holders to enjoy the educational privileges, the job market is very demanding, for example, due to changes in the labor market the least needed education level has currently been raised to university degree holder (Brydon 2001).
The Government of Canada spends a lot of resources in the education system especially financing with the aim of reducing the cost of accessing to education to Canadians (Vergari, 2010). The government spends approximately 5.4% of the countrys gross domestic product in financing education sector annually. However, the government puts more emphasis at the post-secondary levels of education. it is estimated that the government spends approximately US$20,000 on every student (Vergari, 2010). Canada has undergone a number of reformations that has led the country to its current top performing regarding the world leading education systems (Brascoupe & Catherine, 2009). However, through the policy reforms the country has adopted new strategies to approach educational challenges, for example, the country has improved its educational performance since the reforms that were done in section 23 of the Constitution Act of 1982 that made education more accessible to most people in Canada (Woolley, 2009). With the changes, education was made to fit most groups of people in Canada, for example, education was accessible in both English and French languages, and this made it easier for non-native Canadians could also have access to education that was mandatory to every resident (Napoleaon et al., 2009).
The Canadian government has tried to make Canadian education more accessible to every Canadian resident irrespective of background, this came as a result of the mass population of immigrants moving to Canada in the 1990s (Barban, 2011). However, the government through its agency ministry of citizenship and immigration has adopted a strategy that helps in tracking the foreign students to allow them Canadian access education that is mandatory to every Canadian resident (Barban, 2011: 718). Additionally, most of the job markets in Canada require an applicant to have a Canadian work experience that can only be gained through accessing Canadian education. Therefore, the government through its education ministry has decided to intervene and help the large population of foreign students who are left stranded after they have completed their high school diploma because they cannot be employed in any organization (Bernnett et al., 2009:114).
Some of the strategies that the government through its educational ministry has tried to implement so as to help enhance education accessibility include; introducing programs like the local studies, antiracism aboriginal cultures, and crafts (Postl et al., 2010).
Comparison of Canadian education to other nations
Despite the economic superiority of other nations like the United States, its education does not still approach that of Canada (Van de Werfhorst, 2013). Canadian education has overtaken most of the developed countries regarding education system. Research has shown that Canadian education is still ahead of most of other developed countries including United States, China, Japan, and Korea (Hazelkorn, 2009). However, this does not mean that every province in Canada has the outstanding ability, this only happens in few provinces. For example, results from the test carried out by the program for international student assessment (PISA) showed that students from performed well in individual subjects like sciences as compared to other nations like US and Japan (Fleischman et al., 2010). The education system in Canada is much different with other nations, for example, education is easily accessible in Canada than other nations like the US. Canadian education system is said to be more accessible and less costly as compared to that in the United States, for example, in Canada a student at the university level can spend an average of US$5,000 for his/her tuition fee as compared to the same case in United States where the same student is most likely to spend an average of US$32,000 for the same program (Moodie et al., 2015). This is one of the elements that can be used to explain the Canadian education system. Another difference is that Canadian higher learning institutions like the universities are public institutions owned by the government unlike the case in the US where there are many universities with private ownership. This has helped many people especially the socially disadvantaged to access education just like the rest of the population (Moodie et al., 2015). In Canada, since education falls under the jurisdiction of the provincial administration it is difficult to set a common standard for all students in the country since every province has its way and standards of education. However, education is standardized with the common curriculum that is set to be followed by every school irrespective of the geographical and social status condition of the school (Sentocnik & Brigita, 2009). This does not mean that students from the socially disadvantaged communities are discriminated or deprived of accessing the same education with their counterparts from the well-established families (Woolley, 2009). The case is quite different in other nations like the US where capitalistic nature of the economy has dominated, children from the poor region is not expected to get the same treatment and services like those from wealthy families (Postl et al., 2010). Although, they have to be standardized using the same curriculum set by the government irrespective of the social background; this has created a significant gap in the society and in education system where the rich have access to more quality education while the poor access education to where they can afford and since education is also much expensive it becomes a great challenge to a large population who cannot afford the education (Massotti et al., 2015). In Canada, education is equal irrespective of your social background which forms one of the major factors that can be uniquely identified with Canadian education, and this has tried to solve the social inequality and discrimination issue that has been a major threat to national and international integration (Van de Werfhorst, 2013). This is one of the features or element that makes education in Canada more uniquely identified with Canada and uniquely Canadian education system. It is tough to have a teaching job in Canada as compared to the US. This has significantly led to the employment of well trained and competent teachers in schools.
To conclude, this paper has examined the unique features that make Canadian education system distinct from other nations. Canada is ranked as top performing country with well-established education system because of the strategies the education sector has implemented, especially in an attempt to solve the accessibility of education to every Canadian citizen. However, Canadian education system also has some shortcomings like adaptation to the dynamic nature of the provincial education system keeps on changing from one province to another. This is mainly due to the jurisdiction left under the provincial administration, the federal government needs to increase its engagement and participation in the education sector so as to maintain and probably enhance the performance of the Canadian education system.
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