Royal Commission on Learning Report: Short Version

For the Love of Learning

Report of the Royal Commission on Learning

Short Version

Some of the graphical elements such as photographs and pie charts have been omitted from the electronic version of this report. The only official version is the printed copy.

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Table of Contents

Dear Reader:

While Ontario schools have done a reasonably good job over the past century and half, they need to become better to meet the challenges that now confront them. We believe the overwhelming number of our students are capable of completing their formal education and emerging as knowledgeable, creative, imaginative, thoughtful, reasoning adults. While achieving this goal is by no means easy, we do know how to get there. After some 20 months devoted to listening, reading, debating and thinking about how to make our education system as good as it needs to be to serve the interests of society and our children, we have arrived at a number of conclusions that ought to give hope to those who have grown concerned about the capacity of our schools to cope with an uncertain and intimidating future.

To our own surprise, it has taken us hundreds of pages to set forth our arguments. Because virtually every aspect of schooling has become controversial, and because there is so much suspicion and scepticism out there, we decided it was essential to lay out our thinking in a coherent and detailed manner, so everyone who wanted to would be able to follow closely how we arrived at our ideas. It didn't take us long, for example, to see that the learner and the teacher are the two key players in education, and you will see that every issue we discuss revolves around them. For that reason, we thought it important to offer very full expositions of our views on how serious learning best happens and what constitutes good teaching. From that analysis, many of our views logically flowed.

Our full vision of what life in the classroom could be at its best is contained in Volume II, which we call Learning: Our Vision for Schools. Because learning is a lifelong phenomenon, this section outlines the new system as we wish and believe it could be, right from a child's birth to his or her transition from high school to the next stage, whatever it is. We know full well that the scenario set down here borders on the idealistic, but that's quite deliberate. We're convinced that, in theory at least, schooling could be as engaging and enriching as we describe it, and by setting our standards high we give society some enviable goals to shoot at.

We also include a comprehensive section, Volume III, called The Educators, on teacher learning and professional growth. We make the point repeatedly that no positive changes to the system can happen without the enthusiastic co-operation of teachers - a central fact perversely ignored in many attempts at reform - and that teachers simply can't be expected to perform their many functions adequately unless they're properly prepared.

In a real sense, Ontario schools have been remarkably successful over the years in dealing with students from extraordinarily diverse backgrounds. But more remains to be done. We have much to say about all those whom the education system doesn't treat fairly. There can be no question that schools work best for those from higher socio-economic backgrounds. One critic pointedly observed that the best way to ensure that you do well in school is to make sure that your parents are well-off. Girls are still confronting obstacles that aren't present for boys. We have learned that black students, as well as Portuguese and Hispanic students, are having disproportionate difficulties in getting the most out of schools. It's clear that rural, remote, and smaller communities aren't getting their fair share of education funds. Constitutional commitments to Roman Catholics, Franco-Ontarians and Natives have not fully been lived up to in practice.

In all these cases, certain Ontario students, through no fault or inadequacy of their own, aren't able to gain from schools what they're entitled to. Success at school usually means a better chance of a job, a better job with better wages, and higher status in the world. That's why, throughout our report and especially in our section on equity, we make recommendations to try to ensure fairness in schooling for every child in this province. The goal must be nothing less than to educate all students equally well.

All this, of course, adds up to a great deal of writing, and we know that not all of you will have the time to read the entire report, and certainly not in one fell swoop. We wouldn't even be surprised if our own families failed to read every last page we wrote. For that reason, we provide summaries of our key thoughts and recommendations throughout the main text. As for this little volume, it's not exactly a systematic summary of everything we've written, but rather an attempt to give the sense of what mattered most to us, and how we as a society now should go about crafting a radically new kind of learning system. Perhaps after reading this document, some of you may be intrigued to go to the full study to see what we have to say about your particular interest. Of course we take for granted that, eventually at least, educators, teachers, trustees, and the like will read the entire report. But we especially hope that you - parents and students might be interested in our comments on your roles in the schools of the future. We should tell you immediately that in those schools, if the kind of system we envision comes to pass, you'll both have more responsible and more active roles than you have now.

ISBN 0-7778-3577-0

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