Troubling trends in the Canadian education system can be reversed if the country adopts national standards for learning, a report released Tuesday suggests. The Canadian Council on Learning, in its final report before it ceases to exist, says without a national oversight body for education, student achievement will continue to decline and undermine Canada’s economic competitiveness in the years to come.

“Canada is the only country that doesn’t have a national ministry,” says Paul Cappon, the council’s CEO. And the principal reason for this, the report says, is “that our governments have failed to work together to develop the necessary policies and failed to exhibit the required collective political leadership.”

Education falls under the responsibility of provincial governments, with limited federal involvement, but Cappon says that relationship shouldn’t get in the way of what’s good for Canadians, which, he says, is similar to the dynamics of Canadian health care.

 ”The dysfunctionality of the health-care system costs lives, every week and every month,” says Cappon. “And the dysfunctionality in the education and learning systems costs Canada prosperity, costs opportunities for the young and the not-so-young: so of course, you can only overcome (the divide) if you want to and if there is political will do it.”

The federal-provincial dynamic decreases the quality of education in Canada from early childhood education through to post-secondary schools, aboriginal and adult learning, the council argues. A change is needed to get governments of all levels to work together to avoid further declines in student outcomes, the council says.

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