82nd CMEC Meeting: Education Ministers Move Forward On Major Pan-Canadian Issues


Winnipeg, October 9, 2002 -- Student mobility, on-line learning, and assessment were among the items that were front and centre when ministers responsible for education met in Winnipeg this week.

Ministers adopted a ministerial statement that will lead to a pan-Canadian system of credit transfer among colleges and universities (attached). In the statement, the ministers affirm that the primary purpose for establishing credit transfer agreements among institutions of higher education is to increase access to postsecondary education and to improve mobility for students.

"The ability for learners at all stages of their lives and careers to move easily into, between, and out of postsecondary education is a key component in building postsecondary education systems that make lifelong learning a reality," said the Honourable Dianne Cunningham, Ontario's Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, who chairs the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC). "Our objective is to have more systematic credit transfer arrangements in place by 2005."

Ministers also agreed to set up a pan-Canadian portal on on-line learning. The portal will offer links to provincial and territorial ministry Web sites. Implementation of later stages will expand the potential uses of the portal. Provinces and territories envision a learning portal that meets the needs and expectations of diverse K-12 and postsecondary learning communities. "Ministers have unanimously recognized the importance of on-line learning to promote the successful participation of Canadians in today's rapidly-changing economy and are working together to make this a reality," said Minister Cunningham.

Ministers received a report from a federal-provincial/territorial working group that has been set up to study and make recommendations on financial assistance to students. They agreed to move forward in joint work with the federal government to explore potential improvements to student financial assistance programs. Among the improvements needed are extending eligibility to include convention refugees and enhancing the Part-time Student Loans Program. Ministers also called upon the federal government to act quickly to implement program changes designed to reduce federal student loan debt. Quebec administers its own student financial assistance program.

Ministers also discussed the future of pan-Canadian student assessments in key subject areas in the K-12 sector. They agreed to review the existing School Achievement Indicators Program (SAIP), which provides results at the provincial or territorial level only, to determine how it could provide data at the school district or school level. "SAIP provides us with information that helps us in making policy decisions that are based on evidence," said Minister Cunningham. "The federal government has been a valuable partner in these assessments to date and we expect they will continue to participate fully in the future."

Ministers discussed the future of the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials (CICIC), a referral service for facilitating foreign credential recognition, which is operated by CMEC and jointly funded by the provinces and territories and Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC). HRDC has indicated that its funding for CICIC will end on March 31, 2003. "We call upon the federal government to help us maintain the information and referral strength of CICIC, since the recognition of foreign credentials is of such importance to both orders of government," said Minister Cunningham. A joint paper prepared by CMEC and the provincial and territorial labour ministers, which was released publicly today, stressed the importance of encouraging full labour market participation of under-represented groups, including immigrants. The paper was accepted by premiers at their summer 2002 meeting and has been shared with HRDC Minister Jane Stewart.

CMEC is an intergovernmental body composed of the ministers responsible for elementary-secondary and advanced education from the provinces and territories. Through CMEC, ministers share information and undertake projects in areas of mutual interest and concern.

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