The More Things Change: Canada’s STEM-powered Future

canada2067 | Educators |

It used to be that “the smartest person in the room,” was someone with encyclopedic knowledge, versed in the laws of physics, fine points of biology or rules of grammar — someone who knows a lot about a lot of things.

These days, anyone with a smartphone can summon answers from a vast store of information in only seconds. Knowledge, by itself, is a commodity, available to just about everyone — still valuable, but increasingly insufficient for personal success or social progress.

“What matters most in our increasingly innovation-driven economy is not what you know, but what you can do with what you know,” Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith said in their 2015 book, Most Likely to Succeed. “The skills needed in our vastly complicated world, whether to earn a decent living or to be an active and informed citizen, are radically different from those required historically.”

In other words, the questions you ask are as important as the answers you give. Your analytic chops, knack for innovation and creative problem solving are as crucial for survival as the ability to recall facts, avoid mistakes and demonstrate mastery within a specific discipline were for previous generations.

The ascendant acronym in education is STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math. Rather than a tidy list of requirements, an updated version of “reading, writing and arithmetic,” the letters represent curricula that integrate formerly siloed subjects and equip students to navigate from astrophysics to computer code, calculus to system design to bio-mechanics in search of creative solutions. It means substituting active imagination for passive reception in learning.

Canada’s stellar – albeit complex – education systems continue to thrive (we currently have 22 provincial/territorial education ministries that oversee early years through post-secondary education). But we now face global competition and mounting demand for graduates who excel at teamwork and interdisciplinary thought, self-confident and curious about what they do not know. Whereas 20th-century education trained people for jobs in manufacturing and services where tasks were routine and easy to define, this century must educate citizens who are prepared for a world where tasks are automated, information flow accelerated, established industries disrupted. Canada needs education systems equal to the challenges presented by global phenomena that upset conventions of time and space, hierarchies of power and wealth, rituals of authority and submission.

Canada 2067 seeks to engage Canadian citizens in reviewing, rethinking and ultimately reshaping the character of K-12 education in this country. It’s an ambitious project that will work best with your consideration and input. Please join us in a journey toward a bicentennial celebration in which education remains a source of national pride and foundation for progress.

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