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History Table of Contents
1993 Summer Conference
Summer Conference 1993
The Challenge of Lifelong Learning in an Era of Global Change

Delivering Educational Excellence Part 2


How do you think you can make it sexy to be an engineer?

McKay: Engineering is really one percent creative and 99 percent tedious boredom. In attracting people to engineering, you have to highlight problem solving and the thrill that people go through when they are in that one percent of the creative design process.

We have heard a lot about the problems that exist and about the ideas that exist for their solution. They all add up to an enormous amount of institutional change. In your opinions is there the political will to do it?

Wright: Well let me start. I think that our economic and social circumstances are causing us to do it. Canadians can no longer sustain the system that we now have in place. The safety net, as we have defined it and created it cannot be sustained. The agony that Ontario is going through to cut $2 billion from the budget, when the deficit after that is still going to be $10 billion. I can't contemplate a $10 billion increase in taxes. I can't immediately contemplate five times the reductions that are being made. But even if we resume a boom, we are not going to get more than $4 or $5 billion revenue. So we have at least a five billion shortfall. We have to think much more seriously about all of those things.

Lazar: Political will is partly what you determine. This is a personal observation, I am not speaking now for Minister Valcourt, but a citizen. The reason that I believe that Minister Valcourt and other federal politicians have made learning a priority, is that they believe that, in fact, the citizenry of the country will no longer accept that which exists. They believe that there is a demand for change and if the citizens continue to push it, I believe they will be there to respond and to lead. If the public lose interest, I suspect the politicians will lose interest also. All of the information that is available to me suggests that a very high proportion of the Canadian population is dissatisfied with much that is going on. As long as that groundswell continues, I think political leaders – if they wish to continue to be political leaders – will have no choice but to respond to it.

If you could do one thing to improve the climate or the culture of education in this country what would you do?

Wright: Change attitudes in the family. There is nothing more important. There is nothing that correlates more with achievement. It would be more important than any amount of money we could spend or not spend, any development of curriculum or teachers. All of the societies that do better than we do many different things, but all are characterized by the fact that the parents are immensely supportive and concerned with the cognitive development of the children, particulary in the adolescent years.

McKay: I think that the support of the children is vitally important. I talked about the empowerment of the children and letting them know that they are in control. In order to give somebody control, they have to have some sort of independence or feel that they have that sort of independence and that comes a lot from the family and the family values. The one thing that I would mention is the problem solving abilities and that is problem solving in terms of the scholastic work, but also problem solving in terms of their interpersonal relationships.

Lazar: When I was coming up here I flipped through a report by the Economic Council of Canada and came across a passage which showed the proportion Canadians of different ethnic origins that finished post secondary school. It is quite clear that different ethnic communities attach different weight to education. In this case, it turned out that Canadians of Korean extraction had by far the highest attached importance to education and the Japanese were the second highest. The short answer is the accountability structure of the system.