16 February 2012

Drummond offers prescription for fiscal health

The much-anticipated Drummond Report released yesterday contains many recommendations for fixing Ontario`s ailing economy. As pundits weigh in on what options will get the most traction, it is worth noting that the recommendations for the post secondary education system align well with the need for Ontario to modernize its approach to providing talent for the innovation economy. Differentiation, articulation and pathways all point to a more systematic approach to ensuring that learners can access education in stages and can ladder credentials through work and life.

Some highlights:
"Recommendation 7-7: Create a comprehensive, enforceable credit recognition system between and among universities and colleges. This is an absolutely essential feature of differentiation."
It is also a feature of any modern economy.

"Recommendation 7-8: Post-secondary institutions need to devote more resources to experiential learning such as internships; allow for more independent or self-assigned study; develop problem-based learning modules; and increase study abroad and international experiences. Many institutions already incorporate these features into their programs, funding them from within existing portfolios."
Experiential learning (what we at George Brown College call field education) internships, and problem based learning are all hallmarks of how applied research is integrated into college curricula.

The focus on "strategic research" is code for applied research (NB the CFI's Strategic Roadmap also has this as part of its mandate) and reflects the need for Canada to take a proactive approach to managing research inputs to gain more from its outputs. The Report notes that we continue to do poorly at commercializing research. There is no mention in this section of the need to link to industry to accelerate commercialization of basic research nor to aid industry in innovation.

"Recommendation 7-17: Award provincial research funding more strategically and manage it more efficiently. Consolidating and offering a single-window approach for access and reporting through an online portal will greatly improve efficiency and reduce paperwork, both for government and for post-secondary institutions."
This was also suggested by the Jenkins report, and was included in the recommendations GBC sent to the Jenkins Panel. Simplifying the contact into the Ontario innovation system will reap huge gains.

More study is necessary of course to grasp the full potential of the Report's recommendations. The good news is that we have begun to talk seriously about the modernization of the Ontario education system.

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