Thank you for contacting me and inquiring about the Canadian school system. You ask a very challenging, broad, yet extremely important question that we educators must ask ourselves continually — “What does every Canadian need to know?”. In other words, “What kinds of knowledges and skills should we expect our students to graduate the school system with, as people living in Canada?”. By rephrasing the question in this way, I will attempt to answer your question by highlighting the skills and knowledges necessary for a person living among Canadian societies and spaces.
First of all, as you are probably aware, Canada is a very multi-cultural country, with immigrants and refugees moving in and out of the country on a regular basis. For this reason, it is crucial that students learn to embrace the concept of diversity as applicable to themselves as individuals living within the makeup of this nation. Schools can serve as a great training ground for students to learn, explore, and become more aware of the different groups that exist around them; thereafter, taking these knowledges to further understand, accept, and embrace others that live in co-existence with them.
Secondly, in continuing this idea of the individual living within a greater community, students must know how to communicate effectively with others around them. We, as educators, must equip our students with multiple forms of literacy so that our students have the tools that allow them to communicate with different groups, both locally and globally. Such forms of literacies do not pertain solely to reading, writing, listening, and speaking, but any other methods of communication, such as gesturing, musicking, graphing, drawing, digitalizing, and many more. By equipping the students with various tools for communication, they will be able to learn from consuming as well as producing within their communities.
Lastly, I believe that students should learn to think critically about the world and the different knowledges they are exposed to. As addressed in the earlier paragraph, equipping students with multiple methods of communication means that students will then have the freedom and power to extend their learning to out-of-school contexts, and this may produce both positive and negative results. They will be exposed to many knowledges coming from different people, research/studies, social networking services, news, and other forms of media, and without discernment, consuming such knowledges can have negative implications on how one views the world, and how they position themselves in society.
I would like to close this letter by encouraging you in your quest to answer the question, “What does every Canadian need to know?”, by letting you know that we are not alone in exploring this issue, but that there are scholarly articles that have raised such notions decades ago. Dias (1992) concludes his article with the statement that “[…] in the long run, it is how we teach and how students are allowed to learn that will enable them to become life-long readers, learners, and questioners rather than passive consumers of packaged cultural facts, values, and goods.” In this way, focusing on the “how” over “what” students learn will guide our teaching practices to best help our students become contributing members of the Canadian society. I hope this helps, and I wish you the best of luck in your journey overseas.