THE DIALOGUE September 2012
A response to the Government of Ontario's Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities discussion paper, "Strengthening Ontario's Centres of Creativity, Innovation and Knowledge"
Prepared by: Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students Scarborough Campus Students' Union University of Toronto Mississauga Students' Union University of Toronto Students' Union
Contents: Summary of Recommendations
The Case Against ThreeYear Degrees
Mandatory Digital Learning: An Insult to Education
Eliminating Redundancies & The Credit Transfer System
Experiential Learning & Labour Market-Focused Education
Quality Teaching & Learning Outcomes
Real Ideas to Strengthen Education in Ontario
Summary of Recommendations
1. I mmediately reduce tuition fees by at least 25 per cent 2. I ncrease post-secondary education funding to two percent above the national average 3. E nsure that all post-secondary institutions in all regions are able to offer comprehensive programming 4. I mprove the student-to-faculty ratio by hiring more tenure-track faculty 5. I nvest in job-creation strategies that focus on the ongoing success of postsecondary graduates
Introduction The University of Toronto Students’ Union represents over 47,000 undergraduate students at the University of Toronto; The University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union represents over 12,000 undergraduate students at the University of Toronto Mississauga campus; The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union represents over 10,000 undergraduate students at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus; and the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students represents over 4,000 undergraduate students at the University of Toronto. Combined, we represent nearly 65,000 undergraduate students on all three University of Toronto campuses, and we are worried about the future of post-secondary education in Ontario. The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities’ discussion paper, "Strengthening Ontario’s Centres of Creativity, Innovation and Knowledge," proposes a number of troubling changes to post-secondary education. The proposal includes a shift toward mandatory three-year degrees and year-round learning, moving up to sixty percent of our courses online, the increased privatization of our post-secondary institutions, a shift toward “marketable” education, and the forced implementation of a credit transfer system that will see our universities lose both academic freedom and integrity. During the month of September, the University of Toronto’s students’ unions held the consultations that the Ministry should have had. Over 200 students across the University of Toronto’s three campuses participated in consultations on the Ministry’s proposed changes, and thousands more participated in individual discussions with their student representatives throughout the month. Their concerns are contained within this document. While students agree that our post-secondary system is in need of significant changes, we absolutely cannot condone transformations to the system that negatively affect students or will devalue our education. In order to ensure that any and all changes to post-secondary education are in the best interest of students, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities must frame their proposals around the needs and expertise of the stakeholders, including universities, faculty, workers, and most of all students, who have the most to gain or lose.
THE CASE AGAINST 3-YEAR DEGREES
Quality We must move beyond discussing post-secondary education within the confines of the number of years it “should” take to complete a degree. It is the responsibility of the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities to ensure that the quality of postsecondary education is paramount to any discussion of degree length. It is also the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities’ responsibility to ensure that any and all changes to post-secondary education do not negatively affect a student’s education. Any discussion regarding changes to post-secondary education must begin with a guarantee that students will be provided with the tools required to succeed not only in their academic careers, but also in their lives and careers outside post-secondary education. The three-year degree proposal is extremely problematic, especially considering the context in which it arises. In a shifting economy such as ours, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities’ educational focus should be to safeguard post-secondary education to ensure that our province is fully prepared to confront the issues of tomorrow. Students require flexibility and support in order to fully engage with, and benefit from, their academics. Moving to a mandatory three-year degree model has the potential to negatively impact a student’s capacity to learn and practically apply their knowledge, their career and graduate study opportunities, and the overall potential for a student to succeed and become an asset to both our economy and society as a whole.
"Doors will slam shut for UofT students"
University of Toronto Vice-President & Provost Professor Cheryl Misak
Europe vs. North America Importing an educational model that is based on European countries is shortsighted, as their elementary and secondary education systems are dissimilar to our own. Europe is often cited as a model for three-year degrees, however, secondary education in Europe is more intensive, and adheres to a five-year accreditation process. In Ontario, the elimination of the five-year secondary education in the 1980s and the elimination of OAC in 2002 has decreased academic standards for secondary education completion, resulting in students entering post-secondary education less prepared than they were fifteen years ago.1 The European models of elementary and post-secondary education produce students who are better equipped to attend and succeed at college or university, even with the three-year degree model. However, Ontario students are not as well equipped as their European counterparts, and they are concerned that moving to the three-year degree model will cause them to be ill prepared to enter the workforce or graduate studies at the end of their undergraduate degrees. What is even more frightening is that the end result of these decreased academic standards combined with three-year undergraduate degrees would mean that the outside world would view Ontario as having “the least-educated professionals in the world”.2 As a result of the implementation of the Bologna Model, students in Europe and Australia face even more barriers to education and employment. The focus on marketable skills rather than research and critical thought; linking funding to “learning outcomes” through standardized testing and Diploma Supplements; the marketization of post-secondary education; the introduction of a student debt system; and the move toward privatizing a public service have all resulted in a post-secondary education system that is failing students and society as a whole. The problems with implementing the Bologna Model in Australia should serve as a warning for countries considering similar transformations to their own post-secondary systems. Australian universities continue to experience problems with lining up their accreditation offerings with those of the Bologna Model, resulting in fewer undergraduate degrees offered, increased student debt, and an overall reduction in the quality of post-secondary education.3
1 Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations & Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario (2011). “The 2011 OCUFA CFS Study on Post-Secondary Education Ontario Results” <http://ocufa.on.ca/wordpress/assets/OCUFACFS2011-Ontario-Findings-FINAL.pdf> 2 Henighan, S. (2012). “A three-year degree will shortchange students” <http://www. theglobeandmail.com/commentary/a-three-year-degree-will-shortchange-students/article4171796/> 3 Irving, N. & Kumar, R. (2010). “All Aboard The Education Revolution” <http://newmatilda. com/2010/03/03/all-aboard-education-revolution>
Diminished Opportunities Students are concerned that the move toward three-year degrees will have a negative impact on their graduate study prospects. As a result of this change, Ontario graduates will not be able to apply for out-of-province graduate study programs, as Ontario threeyear degrees will not be recognized as viable Honors degrees outside the province of Ontario. Furthermore, students are concerned that they will lose the integrity of their degrees. A four-year Honors degree is a gateway to graduate programs, but if the quality and scope of Ontario post-secondary undergraduate degrees are compromised, Ontario students will most certainly experience a reduced capacity to advance through post-secondary education systems outside of the province.1
One-Dimensional Learning Students at the University of Toronto are concerned that we will be forced to learn more in less time, and that the quality and quantity of what we learn will be reduced to accommodate for three-year degrees. Most undergraduate degrees require students to take elective courses as a compulsory breadth or distribution requirement. The purpose of multi-disciplinary breadth requirements is to ensure that students have the opportunity to learn from a broad range of disciplines as part of their undergraduate education.2 In other words, breadth requirements ensure that students achieve a wellrounded education. However, if there are limitations on the time that students have to complete their degree, it restricts a student’s ability to receive a well-rounded education. If the focus is on completing a degree in three years, it is reasonable to assume that studies will concentrate only on those elements necessary for accreditation in one’s chosen discipline, effectively eliminating the breadth or distribution requirement that is essential to a comprehensive education.
1 Misak, Cheryl. “Emergency Education Town Hall address”. Address. Emergency Education Town Hall. University of Toronto Medical Sciences Building, room 2158. Toronto. Tuesday, September 25, 2012. 2 University of Toronto Faculty of Arts & Science (2012). “Degree Requirements” <http:// www.artsandscience.utoronto.ca/ofr/calendar/Degree_Requirements_(H.B.A.,_H.B.Sc.,_BCom). html>
Australia: Rushing Through Education In Australia, the implementation of three-year degrees has significantly reduced the quality of education. Students who enter Bologna cycle two are being offered Masters' accreditations that hold the same qualifications as the previous Bachelor accreditation – for a higher price. Undergraduates are receiving less education than they were ten years ago, and if they want to receive the same education as their predecessors they have to pursue a Masters’ education, spend two additional years in school, and pay much more. The introduction of the Bologna model in Australia has also decreased the amount of undergraduate degrees available, as universities move toward the more lucrative graduate degrees as a source of income.1 Not only are students concerned that their degree options will be limited by this move, they are concerned that there will be little opportunity to make an educated decision regarding what they study. Currently, the Ontario post-secondary education system encourages students to choose their specialty, major, and minors after their first year of university. This process allows students to explore varying interests before determining what studies they would like to pursue. With the introduction of a three-year degree, students risk not being able to make an educated decision on their program of study, as they are fast-tracked through the post-secondary system with little to no opportunities to explore varying interests.
Financial Constraints Increasingly, students are working both full- and part-time throughout their education. The high cost of living associated with attending university, especially the University of Toronto, combined with increasing tuition fees and course-related expenses, means that many students cannot rely on assistance programs such as OSAP or grants alone, and must work to ensure that they can afford to attend school. Studies show that students who work during their education have less time to devote to their studies. This issue compounds when we consider the fact that many students have household, volunteer, and family responsibilities as well. By forcing students to complete an intensified three-year degree, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities effectively shortchanges the students who are already struggling the most. Students who work and have less time to devote to their studies will be even less likely to succeed if they are required to complete four years’ worth of work in only three. Conversely, if the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities reduces the workload for threeyear degrees, they risk shortchanging all students, including working students, by offering an inferior education.
1 Irving, N. & Kumar, R. (2010). “All Aboard The Education Revolution” <http:// newmatilda.com/2010/03/03/all-aboard-education-revolution>
"The discussion paper undermines the idea of having a community of excellence!"
Concerned University of Toronto student
MANDATORY DIGITAL PEDAGOGY: AN INSULT TO EDUCATION
Quality The keys to a successful post-secondary education are the social and intellectual interactions that arise from attending an educational institution. Students, professors and administrators each play an important role in the development of the self, and the mentorship, knowledge, lessons and friendships gained through these interactions are irreplaceable. For most students, online education is not a valid substitute for in-class education. Technological advances that allow for video lectures, online study groups, and student-teacher interaction via email should be used to complement an in-class education, not to replace it. Students at the University of Toronto are concerned with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities’ move toward putting up to sixty percent of their courses online. Students are concerned that class sizes – which are currently the largest in Canada1 – will drastically increase without the physical limitations of a classroom, leaving professors with no time to interact with students, thoroughly address inquiries, or understand when or why a student is experiencing difficulty with the course.2 Forcing students to take up to sixty percent of their courses online raises a number of additional issues around the quality of post-secondary education. Online courses increase the potential for a diluted post-secondary education that lacks true engagement. Education and innovation are processes by which individuals (both teacher and student) learn from each other. Knowledge production does not exist in a vacuum, and cannot be achieved through one-sided conversations on a computer screen. Students are concerned that the move toward online education will give rise to an increased use of recycled information, which will essentially inhibit ingenuity, growth, and innovation in Ontario. There is no reason for online education to be mandated. Technology should be a supplement, not a central method of delivery
University of Toronto Faculty Association President Professor Scott Prudham 1 Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario (2010). “Our Bright Future”. <http://cfsontario. ca/downloads/CFS-PSE%20Secretariat-Funding%20%26%20Quality.pdf> 2 OCUFA et al. (2010) “Opening Ontario for Whom? A sectoral vision for integrating online learning into the classroom.” <http://cfsontario.ca/downloads/CFS-Opening%20Ontario%20For%20 Whom.pdf>
Funding & Accessibility Research shows that moving courses online can be a costly – and unnecessary – venture, especially when we consider the fact that the infrastructure for course delivery already exists in Ontario – in the form of in-class courses. Without sufficient investment, it is unlikely that online courses will have the same quality or achieve the same results as face-to-face classes. Students are concerned that the move toward an online delivery of education is simply an attempt to pilfer public funding from postsecondary education, and that the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities has not fully considered the consequences of doing so. Without increased funding for post-secondary education, the move toward online learning has the potential to not only decrease the quality of education, but to create a two-tiered system of education in Ontario. Those who have the opportunity to attend face-to-face classes will have access to adequate student-teacher interaction, support services, and academic standards, and they will receive a higher quality of education than those who can only afford to take courses online.
Equity The online delivery of post-secondary education does nothing to address the underlying barriers to post-secondary education, including the “financial, geographic, physical, family-related, or work-related” barriers mentioned in the Ministry’s discussion paper.1 The argument for putting courses online ignores the root of the problem: that postsecondary education is inaccessible because of the Ontario government’s reluctance to invest in both post-secondary education and accessibility infrastructure. The truth of the matter is, increasing tuition fees, a lack of accommodation for disabilities, and family- and work-related barriers to post-secondary education are not so easily fixed by putting courses online. Students will continue to face barriers to post-secondary education as long as it remains financially and physically inaccessible. Putting courses online only serves to compound these issues, as the move toward an online education will ensure decreased funding for post-secondary education, resulting in further increasing tuition fees, and limiting access to a high quality education.
1 Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (2012). “Strengthening Ontario’s Centres of Creativity, Innovation and Knowledge” <http://www.tcu.gov.on.ca/pepg/publications/Dis cussionStrengtheningOntarioPSE.pdf>
"It's hard for this institution to grow within the framework discussed in this paper"
Concerned University of Toronto student
YEAR-ROUND LEARNING The Ministryâ€™s proposal to move to a year-round model of post-secondary education blatantly ignores the realities of student life, the role of university educators in research and knowledge production, and the university structure as a whole. This move would serve as a further detriment to post-secondary education, as it would limit the work options available to students, eliminate many essential non-academic programs on campus, and inevitably result in the destruction of the university as a dynamic institution dedicated to research, knowledge-production, and the advancement of society en masse.
Summer Opportunities For many students, the summer months are typically dedicated to research, work, and other student development, such as volunteer and summer abroad opportunities. Many of the jobs that are available to students are only available during the summer, when temporary workers are required to fill vacation leaves or to supplement existing staff during the tourist season. To state that the move toward year-long learning would “allow students to work when they want” just goes to show how out of touch the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities is with the lived realities of students, not to mention the important role that students play in the seasonal economy and labour market as a whole. Students are reliant on the seasonal economy in order to help pay for their education, and eliminating the option of working throughout the summer will have perilous consequences not only for the seasonal economy, but for the financial futures of students. If students are not able to take advantage of the existing seasonal work opportunities, they will likely be more dependent on loans to pay for their education and living expenses. Students considering summer abroad or internship opportunities will also be disadvantaged, as they will most likely have to choose between these opportunities and completing their education within the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities’ three year timeline.
Universities Active Year-Round To assume that universities sit empty for four months of the year completely ignores the fact that many campus facilities are utilized during the summer for both academic and non-academic purposes. University classrooms and campuses are host to a multitude of non-academic events during the summer, including summer camps, seminars, and filming – to name a few. Many of these endeavors are revenue producing and/or community-based, and are an important part of the overall university culture. On an academic front, many Ontario universities already offer courses throughout the summer terms for students who are either interested in fast-tracking their degrees, taking additional qualification courses, or making up for courses that they could not access during the school year due to a multitude of reasons including course availability, a lack of funds, work and/or family responsibilities, or to make up for a poor grade. Furthermore, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities fails to recognize the fact that many students use the summer terms to recuperate, spend time
with family, and get back on track, all of which are important measures in ensuring the mental health of students. By forcing students to take courses year-round, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities will inevitably turn universities into degree-granting factories, focused on the quick and cheap distribution of the most base qualifications to serve the purpose of the labour market, and this is not in the best interest of students, the university, or society as a whole. What is extremely troubling about the assumption that we are underutilizing campuses during the summer terms is that the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities fails to recognize the role that summer terms play in the production of research, knowledge, and curricula. Many faculty members reserve one term during the summer to focus on their own research and writing, which is then used to supplement their courses throughout the year. Students benefit academically from their professorsâ€™ research, and without sufficient time to do this research, the entire university, faculty and students included, run the risk of becoming stagnant and underproductive. Disregarding the importance of academic research that is undertaken during the summer term only serves to prove that the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities does not understand the character of the university sector, and that they are more focused on how to churn out degrees rather than a commitment to innovation or productivity.
"The more we pay, the less we get."
Peter, concerned University of Toronto student
"UofT Law School doesn't even recognize summer courses as part of our GPA"
Virginia Lomax, concerned University of Toronto student
ELIMINATING REDUNDANCIES & THE CREDIT TRANSFER SYSTEM The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities’ position on credit transfers is troubling. While the discussion paper states that the purpose of implementing standardized credit transfers is to ensure a uniform post-secondary education across the province, and to allow for increased student mobility – both within the province and internationally – the Ministry’s analysis shows a significant oversight of the distinct characteristics of individual universities, including a failure to recognize that a curriculum is often shaped by those who are doing the research work, and is not so easily transferable between institutions. There are several alarming complications that the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities creates by attempting to implement a credit transfer system that is similar to the Bologna Model, including tuition differentials, economic disparity, a higherthan-average dropout rate for transferring students, and the loss of institutional autonomy.1 These issues become even more problematic when put in the context of the Ministry’s attempt to “eliminate redundancies” in post-secondary education through the consolidation of particular programs at certain institutions.
1 Misak, Cheryl & Prudham, Scott. “Emergency Education Town Hall address”. Address. Emergency Education Town Hall. University of Toronto Medical Sciences Building, room 2158. Toronto. Tuesday, September 25, 2012.
Standardization Impedes Upon Academic Freedom The initial problem with the introduction of this new credit transfer system is that it is a far more simplified version of the existing methods of credit transfers that are employed by the various registrar offices in universities across Ontario. The new proposal institutes a system of forcing all first and second year courses across Ontario to be compatible with one another. What is not noted in the discussion paper is the fact that this move will effectively thwart the academic freedom of institutions, and will hinder the prospects of undergraduate students by preventing their specialization and focus within programs.
Europe vs. Ontario Critics of the Bologna Model note that the system of credit transfers in Europe was meant to happen in conjunction with â€œthe promotion of student and academic mobility, cooperation in quality assurance, and the promotion of a â€˜European dimensionâ€™ to higher education.1" Essentially, the European credit transfer system was intended to ensure that the various countries within the European Union would be able to at least guarantee the opportunity for students to receive a decent, unbiased post-secondary education. Furthermore, it was believed that the credit transfer system would ensure that the bonds of the European Union were strengthened through international collaboration, resulting in the further erosion of borders and divisions between the member states of the European Union.
1 King, Conrad. (2007). The Bologna Process: Bridge or Fortress? A Review of the Debate from a North American Perspective. Institute of European Studies, University of British Columbia. Vancouver, British Coloumbia.
Financial Constraints Despite recent political and media rhetoric, Ontario does not share the same pressing economic and political concerns as the European Union does, and we cannot assume that appropriating a credit transfer system that was built to address Europeâ€™s unique inter-state situation is the best move for our province. Ontario does not have the same level of disparity in the quality of education between universities as Europe faces. Indeed, if there is concern regarding the quality of education in Ontario, or in the transparency of post-secondary institutions, then the proper government and public support should be given in terms of funding and active regulation of universities to ensure that they are impartial, unbiased institutions that can guarantee a high quality education. Under the proposed credit transfer system, students will continue to face financial barriers to post-secondary education, especially if they are attempting to move from universities without flat-fee or deregulated tuition fees to universities that have these tuition fee models in place. The Ministryâ€™s discussion paper does not mention any remedy to this situation, nor is there any indication of standardizing tuition and/or ancillary fees across the province. Before we can even consider implementing a credit transfer system in Ontario, the Ministry must work to guarantee the consistency of tuition fees across the province, so as to ensure that students are not being charged more for transfer credits than they are for credits at their home school.
"They are making the standard the enemy of the excellent."
Concerned University of Toronto student
College to University Transfers Students have raised concerns that the non-technical programs a student would take at college would be unaccounted for when transferring to a university. This would mean that the opportunity and financial cost of post-secondary education for a student transferring from college to university is significantly higher than the opportunity and financial cost for students transferring from university to college. Furthermore, statistics show that students who transfer to university from college have a more difficult time adapting to university, and have lower rates of completion than direct entry students.1 While this type of mobility in the sector is good, the government must provide support for students who make these choices. However, Ontario does not need to look at the inter-state European model for ideas. Both British Colombia and QuĂŠbec have intra-provincial college to university transfer systems that we should look to for ideas. College to university transfer students face a potential loss of a year or more of their post-secondary education, not to mention the money invested, and could fare much worse in the long run as a result of an insufficient governmental policy on credit transfers.
Holistic Analysis If the Ministry is insistent on implementing a three-year degree along with this proposed credit transfer system, they should take note of the experience of students in Europe under the Bologna Model. Critics of the Bologna Model indicate that the biggest complaint amongst European students is that the credit transfer system could not be used during a three-year degree.2 They note that many students considered the three-year degree as too short a time span to allow them to transfer between universities, or to integrate studies from multiple universities into one degree. Without a full analysis of the detrimental effects of implementing this credit transfer system, especially in combination with the Ministryâ€™s other proposed changes to postsecondary education, the system will only serve to set students up for failure.
1 Menard et al. (2012)."A Longitudinal Analysis of the College Transfer Pathway at McMaster". <www.ontransfer.ca/www/files_docs/content/ppt/en/.../menard.ppt> 2 Conrad King, The Bologna Process: Bridge or Fortress? A Review of the Debate from a North American Perspective, (Vancouver, Institute of European Studies, University of British Columbia: 2007.
EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING & LABOUR MARKETFOCUSED EDUCATION Public-private partnerships are on the rise in Ontario post-secondary education. Over the last ten years we have experienced increased corporate influence on universities, which has had negative effects on research and academic freedom in universities across North America. As a result of publicprivate partnerships, universities in the United States have been subject to investigations of research misconduct. In Canada, corporate funding for universities has led to the suppression of academic freedom through corporate influence on academic policies and research. The fact that the Ministry no longer refers to post-secondary education as a public institution is not lost on us, and students are extremely concerned that the expansion of privatepublic partnerships in post-secondary education through mandated co-op and unpaid internship programs will result in the further destruction of our education.
Students as Free Labour One of the many concerns that students have raised regarding the Ministry’s proposals of “experiential learning” and “labour market-focused education” are that private corporations, who currently have access to cheap, high-quality research through these partnerships, will now have access to cheap, or free high-quality labour. Students recognize the necessity of work experience, but we – possibly better than most – understand the implications of trying to succeed in a society where 70% of jobs require post-secondary education, and unemployment and underemployment rates among recent graduates are already too high.1 We are concerned that this shift toward mandatory co-op placements and unpaid (or underpaid) internships will exacerbate the issue of youth un- and underemployment in the province. Students believe that a shift toward including mandatory co-op and internship placements as part of our education will further dilute the pool of jobs that are available for recent university graduates, as corporations will be less likely to hire recent graduates to do work that can be done for free through co-op and internship placements.
Market-Driven Education Labour market-focused education will limit the types of education that are offered at colleges and universities across the province. Students are concerned that if Ontario post-secondary education becomes solely focused on what is “marketable” to the private sector, programs that are considered “less marketable” than others will be eliminated or lose funding in favour of “marketable” ones. Furthermore, basing our education on what is “marketable” eradicates the opportunity for innovation, as students run the risk of learning about only what is currently considered profitable and marketable, leaving little room for creative and/or innovative thought, research, and entrepreneurial endeavors. Sadly, what seems to be missing from the Ministry’s proposal is the understanding that universities are not meant to be factories for creating a docile and underpaid (or free!) workforce. The purpose of a university education is to enrich society by teaching its members to think critically, to be innovative and creative, and to work toward creating a better world. By directing our education toward “experiential learning” and what is “marketable” and away from these roots of post-secondary education, students are concerned that we will lose sight of this fundamental purpose, and that society will suffer as a result.
1 Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario (2012). “Keep the Promise Reduce the Fees: 2012 Budget Submission.” <http://cfsontario.ca/downloads/CFS-2012BudgetSubmission.pdf>
QUALITY TEACHING & LEARNING OUTCOMES 26
"We all learn differently...the quality of education will be diminished by the government's proposals"
Tequia, concerned University of Toronto student
Standardized Testing Over the last few years we have seen an increased focus on using standardized testing as a measure of learning outcomes. In Ontario elementary and high schools, standardized testing has been used not only to gauge students’ accomplishments, but the aptitude of teachers and success rates of schools overall. Unfortunately, this move toward measuring learning outcomes through standardized testing has been proven to not only damage innovative education and critical thought, but it has created a culture of testing that focuses solely on achieving satisfactory test results, inevitably encumbering academic analysis, creative pedagogy, and the desire to learn. Any move toward including standardized testing in curricula must first look at the actual learning outcomes of students who are taught within a testing culture. According to Bill Ayers, standardized tests do little to measure anything but “isolated skills, specific facts and function, [and] content knowledge… [the] least significant aspects of learning.1” In fact, studies have shown that students taught using standardized testing are less likely to fully understand the subject matter, and that a focus on rote memorization has the potential to eliminate creative and innovative thought and expression in education23. If standardized testing is implemented in post-secondary education, the consequences become even more concerning. Students are worried that the inclusion of standardized testing in post-secondary education will shift the focus of their education from one that encourages innovative and critical thought to an education based on repetition and the regurgitation of known facts. Students are also concerned that standardized testing results will be used as a means of determining which courses are successful and worthy of public funding, and which are not. And finally, students are concerned that a focus on test scores and the separation of teaching and research will undermine the overall purpose of post-secondary education, which is – in the University of Toronto’s own words – to foster “an academic community in which the learning and scholarship of every member may flourish” and to uphold the “human right to radical, critical teaching and research” that is imperative to our growth as students, citizens, and a society4.
1 Ayers. (2003). “To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher.” New York, NY. Teacher’s College Press. 2 Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (2008). “A Culture of Testing.” <http://www. oecta.on.ca/wps/wcm/connect/8dd41e8045badf1480e5a1f604841e5d/cultureoftesting.pdf?MOD=AJ PERES&CACHEID=8dd41e8045badf1480e5a1f604841e5d> 3 Volante, Louis (2004). "Teaching to the Test: What Every Educator and Policy-Maker Should Know" < http://www.umanitoba.ca/publications/cjeap/articles/volante.html> 4 University of Toronto. Mission and Purpose. <http://www.utoronto.ca/about-uoft/missionand-purpose.htm>
Professors & Researchers The Ministry also proposes separating research and teaching, which students feel could have grave implications for the standard of education that they receive at postsecondary institutions. Students feel that a professorâ€™s research is key to ensuring that their education stays current and relevant, as most professors utilize their own research to supplement their teachings. Students are concerned that the separation of research and teaching could stagnate education, and that by shifting toward a model of education that separates the two; the quality of post-secondary education will significantly decrease.
"The paper assumes that universities are factories producing workers... that the purpose is commercial."
Corey Scott, Vice-President Internal & Services, University of Toronto Students' Union
Real Ideas to
STRENGTHEN EDUCATION IN
"Do I really want to come to Canada if the quality of education is lower than in my home country?"
Grace Guo, Vice-President External, University of Toronto Mississauga Students' Union
Introduction As Ontario’s economy changes, it becomes increasingly necessary for the sector to meet new challenges. However, the changes proposed by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities do not address the real issues that face students every day, and could ultimately lead to the destruction of the quality, purpose, and societal effect of post-secondary education overall. Students have been calling on the Ontario government to address the important issue of access to post-secondary education for years, and we are glad that the government is interested in finally entering into a dialogue about what can be done to improve the sector. Students agree with the need to build a robust post-secondary system that puts the interests of students and quality of education first. It is in this spirit that we offer the following recommendations for changes to post-secondary education that will ensure that the sector works not only in the best interests of students, but Ontario as a whole. The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities can immediately improve access to and the quality of post-secondary education, student outcomes and job prospects, and degree completion times by: • Investing in post-secondary education • Immediately reducing tuition fees by at least 25 percent • Increasing post-secondary education funding to two percent above the national average • Ensuring that all post-secondary institutions in all regions are able to offer comprehensive programming • Improving the student-to-faculty ratio by hiring more tenure-track faculty • Investing in job-creation strategies that focus on the ongoing success of postsecondary graduates
Public Investment Students and post-secondary institutions are concerned with Ontario's tuition fee framework. The extension of the previous tuition fee framework fails to adequately balance student financial realities with the needs of post-secondary institutions. Students at the University of Toronto believe that we can shape a tuition fee framework that works, that will not sacrifice the quality of post-secondary education, and will improve access to Ontario’s colleges and universities. Any adequate tuition fee framework must balance the realities and needs of students, post-secondary institutions, and our province. In the way that the economy is shifting, it is clear that an educated population is playing an increasingly central role in driving the Ontario economy. Investing in access to and the quality of post-secondary education is the path towards building a stronger Ontario for all. Students are producers and consumers of knowledge. We operate from Ontario post-secondary institutions to produce arts, culture, and provide research essential to shaping and improving our society. The skills that Ontario’s students acquire through post-secondary education continue to contribute to Ontario society long after graduation. Unfortunately, current and proposed post-secondary policy threatens the value of students’ continued contribution to Ontario, and threatens the future of our economy. Ontario students are burdened with over $9 billion dollars in student debt, which accounts for 60 per cent of student loans across the country. If we include private loans, the average Ontario student owes approximately $37,000 in education-related debt upon graduation1. To further this burden, employment prospects for university graduates are at an all-time low2. Ontario’s students and youth are facing tough times, and need a government that will address youth debt and the unemployment crisis directly. Tuition fees increases of up to 71 per cent since 2006 have caused a generation to shoulder mortgage-sized debt loads just for the opportunity to work3. The government must propose a framework that reduces tuition fees to address this issue.
1 Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario (2011). “The Impact of Government Underfunding on Students.” < http://cfsontario.ca/downloads/CFS-Underfunding%20Factsheet.pdf> 2 Statistics Canada. “Employment by age, sex, type of work, class of worker, and province (Ontario)”. <http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/labr66g-eng.htm> 3 Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario (2012). “CFS 2012 Budget Analysis.” <http:// cfsontario.ca/downloads/CFS-2012BudgetAnalysis.pdf>
Currently, Ontario universities receive the least amount of per-student funding in Canada, at $10,222 per student. From 2002 to 2010 the University of Toronto experienced a full-time first entry enrollment growth of over 12,000 students, with each campus taking in 4,000 additional students4. As a result of decreased public funding for post-secondary education in Ontario, the University of Toronto has focused much of its attention on attracting international students as a means of generating necessary revenue; has implemented a flat fee tuition model in its largest faculty, thereby increasing revenue through an indirect tuition fee increase; and continues to increase domestic tuition fees at a rate of four to five percent each year in order to fill the gap left by insufficient public funding. Sufficient public investment in post-secondary education can be achieved by cancelling corporate tax cuts; directing the revenue gained by the two-percent income increase on higher earners toward a reduction in tuition fees; capping university administration salaries, eliminating the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) and redirecting that funding to post-secondary education. The combined revenue of each of these moves would allow the Ontario government to reduce tuition fees by 25 per cent, increase per-student funding to two percent above the national average, and ensure that we have a post-secondary education system that will work for Ontario.
Degree Completion Time The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities is concerned with the time that it takes students to complete their degrees. If the goal is to reduce the time it takes to complete post-secondary education, the most effective way to do so is by tackling the barriers faced by students that prevent them from finishing faster. What the Ministry does not acknowledge in their discussion paper is that reducing the upfront costs of post-secondary education can actually lessen the time that it takes for students to complete their degrees. Essentially, the more that students have to pay for their education, the more they will have to work to afford it. The more students have to work, the less time they have to focus on their education. If the upfront costs of education are drastically reduced, it will allow students more time to focus on their studies, which will inevitably ensure that students graduate from university more efficiently.
4 University of Toronto. â€œEnrolment Report 2010-2011â€?. Table 1A. <http://www.provost. utoronto.ca/Assets/Provost+Digital+Assets/Provost/publication/Reports/2010-11+Enrolment+Report. pdf>
Invest in Quality If the Ministry is concerned with improving the quality of post-secondary education, they need to commit to measures that will enhance education, including improving the student-to-faculty ratio by hiring more tenure-track professors, implementing a credit transfer system that will improve mobility while maintaining institutional autonomy and academic integrity, and ensuring that institutions in all regions are able to offer comprehensive programming so that students can have flexibility in what they study no matter where they live. The quality of post-secondary education cannot be improved by measures that seek to reduce public funding, eliminate programs, or increase the student-faculty ratio. Without serious consideration of what really constitutes a quality post-secondary education, the Ministry runs the risk of reducing the overall quality and effectiveness of post-secondary education in Ontario.
Invest in Our Future Investment in job creation strategies in sectors such as clean energy, public service, transportation, infrastructure, and the arts are the only way to ensure the ongoing success of post-secondary graduates. The Ontario government must reverse the trend of cutting public sector jobs, as this significantly diminishes the job opportunities available to post-secondary students and graduates. Investment in job creation strategies that increase the public services available to Ontarians will ensure the ongoing success rates of post-secondary graduates, and will ultimately result in higher economic and social gains for Ontario well into the future.
The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities must focus on what is best for students. However, the changes proposed in the Ministryâ€™s discussion paper are not in the best interest of students, educators, or the post-secondary system as a whole. Post-secondary education should support creative and innovative thought, curiosity, and critical analysis, and not attempt to funnel students through the system like pieces through an assembly line. The Ministry needs to safeguard post-secondary education from corporate influence, and must ensure that they do everything in their power to eliminate the barriers to education that so many Ontarians face. The Ontario government must recognize that a well-funded public post-secondary education system is a social good that will serve to benefit our province in the long run. Without a commitment to developing and maintaining a highquality, public post-secondary education system, we all lose. Students are calling on the Ontario government to commit to developing and maintaining a high-quality, public post-secondary education system that works in the best interest of the province, students, educators, politicians, and our centres of creativity, innovation and knowledge. Students are not against the idea of an overhaul of the education system. In fact, we have been calling for many changes over the years. If the Ontario government is interested in what needs to be changed in post-secondary education, the best way to find out would be to consult the very people who interact with it every day, and seriously consider our proposals. Haphazard discussions that do not include the voices of the academy, especially students, will only serve to create greater frustration and rifts between the academic community and the Ontario government.
A project of: Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students Scarborough Campus Students' Union University of Toronto Mississauga Students' Union University of Toronto Students' Union
Locals 97, 99, 109 & 98 respectively, Canadian Federation of Students