Canada’s participation rates in higher education have been climbing steadily for years, but what’s the quality of that education? It’s both an existential and practical debate that has been growing steadily along with participation rates.
A recent commentary in the Education Policy Institute’s newsletter by consultant Ken Snowdon makes what I think are some excellent points about the quality issue. I suppose his argument is self-evident to many, but it still needs saying:
Increasing PSE participation rates is an important part of improving investment in our human capital. But in an era when many countries are investing heavily in all aspects of higher education, the provincial and federal government commitment to quality higher education must be strengthened. It is the quality of our graduates that will set Canada apart in the 21st century.
I particularly liked Mr. Snowden’s list of six factors which, he says, according to the literature contribute most to student success. I challenge anyone to come up with a better list:
- Student involvement in the academic and non-academic systems of an institution;
- The nature and frequency of student contact with peers and faculty members;
- Interdisciplinary or integrated core curricula that emphasize making explicit connections across courses and among ideas and disciplines;
- Pedagogies that encourage active student engagement in learning and encourage application of what is being learned in real and meaningful settings;
- Campus environments that emphasize scholarship and provide opportunities for students to encounter different kinds of people and ideas; and
- Environments that encourage and support exploration, whether intellectual or personal.