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Learning to School

Learning to School: Federalism and Public Schooling in Canada

Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 432
  • Book Info
    Learning to School
    Book Description:

    Beginning with the earliest provincial education policies and taking readers right up to contemporary policy debates,Learning to Schoolchronicles how, through learning and cooperation, the provinces gradually established a country-wide system of public schooling.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6928-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Appendices
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-2)
  7. Introduction: An Unexpected Policy Framework
    (pp. 3-34)

    In 1976, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) conducted a review of elementary and secondary education in Canada. This was the first time that all ten provincial education systems had been assessed simultaneously, and the results were less than glowing:

    The fact that there is, and apparently can be, no Federal Department of Education has created a kind of vacuum in education policy at the higher federal decision-making level … There is to date no sign of a coherent federal policy for education emerging, nor much evidence of success in ironing out inconsistencies and even outright contradictions among...

  8. 1 Defying the Odds I: Investments and Achievements in Canadian Elementary and Secondary Education
    (pp. 35-56)

    To reconcile the tension between federalism and the welfare state, scholars and practitioners often implicate the central (or national) government as the necessary actor that is capable of achieving substantive inter-regional similarities in social policy.¹ In the words of Roy Romanow, a former premier of Saskatchewan, Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, and Steven Lewis, a top Canadian health care analyst: “Only leadership from Ottawa can guarantee a common set of programs and standards and ensure that program enhancements are available to all Canadians.”² Endowed with legitimate authority to mandate common standards, central governments are seen...

  9. 2 Defying the Odds II: Provincial Education Policies
    (pp. 57-89)

    When determining whether the provinces have fashioned a policy framework and installed similar policies, the immediate question is: Relative to what? The answer is straightforward. Barring some important variations, next to the universe of potential policy options, the ten provinces have adopted a relatively consistent approach to elementary and secondary schooling. The following pages serve three purposes.

    The opening section maps out the five dimensions of the education sector to detail the options that policy makers, politicians, and stakeholders can choose. This description reveals that the configuration of elementary and secondary education is rife with possibilities and that choices among...

  10. 3 Theorizing Policy Frameworks in Federations
    (pp. 90-117)

    How are policy frameworks created in federal systems? This chapter crafts an analytical architecture to help us analyse the dynamics of policy making in federations and guide the comparative historical analysis that unfolds in later chapters. My emphasis lies in understanding the processes and mechanisms that carry ideas across various polities while identifying the conditions and pathways that lead different polities to adopt comparable policies. To accomplish this goal, I bridge two research terrains – policy diffusion and policy convergence – linking them together with insights drawn from the three traditions of institutionalism to consider the ways in which these processes, mechanisms,...

  11. 4 Founding and Consolidating Provincial Schooling (1840–1945)
    (pp. 118-150)

    From the 1840s to 1945, the period during which public schooling was founded and consolidated in Canada, provincial officials, experts, and stakeholders looked around for models and examples of viable practices with which to build their respective education systems. While departing from markedly different starting points, by the middle of the twentieth century, seven of the nine provinces had converged on a common model of central administration; all had adopted a similar means to finance the sector; the majority were using comparable curricula at the elementary level; and all the provinces were using the same model of teacher training. There...

  12. 5 Universalizing Provincial Schooling (1945–1967)
    (pp. 151-179)

    In the aftermath of the Second World War, governments around the world turned their attention to the social fabric of the state. There was a collective sense that the atrocities of the war could not be repeated and a general appetite for increasingly egalitarian forms of state intervention. British social researcher Richard Titmuss eloquently captured this attitudinal transformation:

    The mood of the people changed, and in sympathetic response, values changed as well. If dangers were to be shared, then resources should also be shared … Dramatic events on the home front served to reinforce the war-warmed impulse of people for...

  13. 6 Individualizing Provincial Schooling (1967–1982)
    (pp. 180-208)

    Canada’s centennial year, 1967, was a time of great optimism in Canada. By then the welfare state was largely in place and prosperity across the country was at an all-time high. This optimism, however, proved to be short-lived; in the words of Pierre Berton, 1967 was Canada’s “last good year.”¹ In the 1970s, skyrocketing oil prices and stagflation resulted in a major economic downturn that cast a long shadow over the landscape. Inflation and unemployment both rose, shaking foundational beliefs in the effectiveness of state action. Meanwhile, animosity and hostility appeared on the political horizon. The intergovernmental cooperation that had...

  14. 7 Standardizing Provincial Schooling (1982–2007)
    (pp. 209-236)

    In 1984, the Canadian Education Association commissioned a major opinion poll to gauge public sentiments towards elementary and secondary education. The survey found that only 10 percent of Canadians were willing to give their schools an “A” grade. By 1990, this figure had dropped to 6 per cent and a sizeable 35 per cent of Canadians thought their schools were only worth about a “C” grade.¹ Prime Minister Brian Mulroney waded into the debate when he declared that public education was “shortchanging many Canadians and imposing a severe burden on our national competitiveness.”² Business interests and expert panels voiced similar...

  15. Conclusion: Learning to School
    (pp. 237-256)

    I began with a puzzle. Without national standards, or any authoritative Leviathan, the Canadian provinces have developed highly similar systems of elementary and secondary education. This similarity was revealed when we examined the investments, achievements, and substantive policies currently at work in education across the ten jurisdictions. In effect, the ten provinces have installed a “pan-Canadian” policy framework that informally manages and oversees the education sector, providing Canadians with equal access to reasonably comparable programs, regardless of where in Canada they live.

    For federalism scholars, thede factopolicy framework in Canadian elementary and secondary education defies the odds. The...

  16. Appendices
    (pp. 257-272)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 273-338)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 339-384)
  19. Index
    (pp. 385-410)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 411-413)