83rd CMEC Meeting: Improved Learning Focus Of New Pan-Canadian Assessment Program


London, Ontario, April 2, 2003 -- Ministers responsible for education met in London, Ontario this week and agreed on an action plan for further strengthening pan-Canadian collaboration on a series of key education issues.

New assessment program

The ministers confirm their leadership in assessment and are developing a major streamlined and forward-looking assessment program aimed at improving learning. The new Pan-Canadian Assessment Program (PCAP) will initially assess student performance in the core subjects of reading, mathematics and science. It is designed so that other subjects, such as second languages, information and communications technologies, and the arts, can be added as the need arises. PCAP will replace the School Achievement Indicators Program, which has been in place for 10 years, and will preserve the wealth of data gathered through SAIP.

"The beauty of PCAP is that it enables us to assess the performance of our education systems here in Canada but also dove-tails with the important international assessments we are doing through the OECD. By integrating existing testing programs, PCAP greatly eases the testing burden on schools," said Minister Cunningham. "It will also enable provinces and territories to improve their own assessments and to validate their results by comparing them to both the national and international results."

"The information gained from these long-term assessments will enable us to adopt and adapt education policies and will focus on continuous improvement. Student assessment is a fundamental part of our responsibility for education and improving our learning systems. Learners will be the big winners," said Minister Cunningham. "We are committed to communicating these results to learners, parents and schools, and the Canadian public."

Canadian Learning Institute

Ministers will seek a meeting with the Honourable Jane Stewart, Minister of Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC), to discuss the decision recently made by the federal government to establish the Canadian Learning Institute and potential duplication with CMEC's activities. "CMEC works in partnership with Statistics Canada to develop education data and to monitor education trends," said Minister Cunningham. "We want to avoid duplication and ensure that taxpayers' money is invested in the right priorities. As a key part of our mandate, CMEC is already doing this and reporting back to Canadians."

Quebec indicated that it objected to the creation of this institute and would not be associated with the initiative because the institute's mandate is in the area of Quebec's jurisdiction.

On-line learning

In the area of on-line learning, ministers received a progress report and communications plan on the Pan-Canadian On-line Learning Portal, which they approved at their last meeting. In its early stages, the portal will provide one-stop access to information on on-line learning for provincial and territorial education officials. In its final stages, the portal will provide learning resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

Official-languages in education

On the topic of official-languages education, ministers received a report on discussions with federal officials regarding a new agreement on the official languages in education. The most recent agreement expired on March 31, 2003. Ministers agreed that the additional monies for official-languages education recently announced by the federal government should be allocated through the existing agreements with provinces and territories.

Francophone minority-language education was also on the agenda of the London meeting. Ministers received a major report on improving the performance of francophone students in minority settings. The report is based on data collected from SAIP assessments. "We must ensure that francophone students in minority settings are given the opportunity to succeed and excel in their first language," said Minister Cunningham. "This report identifies a number of possible areas for concrete interventions that support teaching and learning for minority language students. It demonstrates the usefulness of SAIP assessment data for government policy development." Ministers also received a report on the development of a francisation kit for teachers from kindergarten to grade 2. The report on SAIP data and the francisation kit will be published this summer.

Foreign credentials recognition

Another of the issues discussed by ministers at their two-day meeting was the decision by the federal government to discontinue joint funding for the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials (CICIC), an information referral service for facilitating foreign credential recognition, as of March 31, 2003. Ministers were unanimous in expressing their disappointment over the federal decision and agreed to maintain their responsibility for Canada's obligations under the UNESCO Convention. Minister Cunningham stated that it was not helpful that the Government of Canada would withdraw from its obligations under an international convention, given the interest of all governments in the issue of foreign credential recognition. "We encourage the federal government to reconsider its decision," she said.

Meeting with the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC)

During a constructive dialogue with the ACCC, ministers were informed of the sector's major achievements. Moving forward in a collaborative effort on the priorities identified by education and labour market ministers in their recent joint paper, "Working Together" [PDF document] was also discussed.

Teacher training

Ministers discussed ongoing efforts across the country to enhance measures that attract, develop, and retain highly-qualified teachers. There was unanimous agreement that the continuing exchange of information in this area would enable provinces and territories to better meet the challenges of sustaining and enriching high-quality education systems.

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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