Magazine article CMA - the Management Accounting Magazine

Education - in Step with the Times

Magazine article CMA - the Management Accounting Magazine

Education - in Step with the Times

Article excerpt

The revolution that's shaking our economy and our national self-confidence is, in my view, also shaking our schools. It's driven by a new commitment to performance, and just as surely as it is reshaping our goals as a nation, it is redefining the goals of our educational systems.

New jargon is a sign of the times. Words I hear like "accountability," "site-based management," and "quality assurance" are creeping from corporate boardrooms into school board offices and staff rooms across the country. Schools are talking about "clients" and members of the public are calling for "value for money" audits. Competition is back in style as we prepare young people for the "global economy."

I think our schools are -- and should be -- a reflection of the values and goals of the societies they serve. Small wonder, then, that our own schools are in a state of flux. However, I don't think our schools can afford to be in flux any longer. After hearing from an enormous cross-section of Canadians as a member of the federal government's prosperity steering group, my sense is that a renewed educational system, committed to national standards of excellence, has become a national rallying cry as Canadians set their sights on a return to economic prosperity and global competitiveness.

Industry has demonstrated convincingly that, by targeting specific objectives and measuring performance regularly, performance and outcome improve. The principle applies as well to education. The growing use of "benchmarks-testing" is a step in the right direction. Benchmarks are targets for achievement at specified points in a child's learning career. They do provide schools with a framework of expectations. They are not used to "pass" or "fail" students, but they set a standard against which teachers and parents can measure student achievement and system success. They may also offer a vehicle for developing provincial and national standards without penalizing individual communities or students.

But before benchmarks can work for example, in grade three math, we need to decide what we expect grade three students to learn. If we want to move toward province-wide, or nation-wide standards of excellence for our young people, which I believe we must, we need to define our expectations. …

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