15 June 2012

Education, Polytechnics, Economics

This morning I came across an article with more detail on the OECD's Economic Survey of Canada that offers some keen insight into the relationship between education and economic performance, and the role of polytechnics in enhancing productivity and innovation in Canada. Dan Ovsey's Financial Post article In depth: How the OECD says Canada can fix its ‘key long-term challenge’ goes into some good detail from the report. As I noted yesterday there is good reference to education as a driver of productivity, but Ovset provides more detail from the OECD report of relevance to Canada's number 1 ranking in tertiary education with a specific focus on college and polytechnic education which I will quote here in full:

Immigration, of course, is one, but more importantly, a new emphasis needs to be placed on “tertiary education” and primarily that found in community-colleges that can offer a streamlined path to certification in skills that will be in increasingly desperate need throughout the country.

“Colleges differ from universities in that their programmes tend to be shorter in length and emphasise practical, technical and occupational training for the labour market. While colleges typically grant diplomas and certificates rather than degrees, a small but growing subset of “polytechnic” institutes has emerged that grants baccalaureate degrees and differentiates itself by its focus on applied research for industry.”

Ovsey goes on to decry the lack of credential transfers we are plagued with, though I remain optimistic that we will  address this (it is, after all, a primarily economic argument: why should a student spend money on a particular piece of a credential and not have this transferable? This is a waste of system resources.).

Key here is the credential ladders offered by polytechnics in Canada, as well as by some colleges, and the relationship to applied research with industry. On this topic, Ovsey further quotes the OECD:

“Academics should be provided with stronger incentives to produce research relevant to business needs, starting with the peer-review granting process, then sharing their IP with business through collaborative efforts and finally having some form of ownership rights over their patented inventions.”

This P3RD - the public+private partnership model for R&D - is a key area to develop in Canada. In this sense, polytechnics as innovation intermediaries are also intermediaries between education and economics, offering a bridge that celebrates instrumentality and lifelong learning.

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