Volume 94, Issue 61

Thursday, January 11, 2001


NEWS

Ontario finishes dead last - Education ranking puts province on defensive

Former prof talks politically incorrect

Economy slows down slightly: Ivey survey

What recession? City booms

New tax to create safety net

Drug testing could hit human rights violation snag

New club sets sights on stock market skills

Briefs

Planet Me

Ontario finishes dead last - Education ranking puts province on defensive



By Mike Murphy
Gazette Staff



A study released yesterday by an Ottawa think tank has ranked Ontario dead last among Canada's 10 provinces in its commitment to post-secondary education.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a self-described left-of-centre research organization, argues in its report that, based on four categories – equity, accessibility, quality and public accountability– the Ontario post-secondary system is the worst in Canada.

Co-editor Erica Shaker said the CCPA published the first edition of the annual study last year. Ontario was also ranked last in that report, she said, and actually performed worse this year. "If there was an 11th place, then Ontario would get it," she said, adding the province had the worst student-to-teacher ratio and had among the highest tuition levels.

Shaker explained the study took about eight months to complete and was created mostly by interpreting data collected by Statistics Canada.

Ontario's Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities spokesperson Dave Ross said he would not comment specifically on the report, but added it would be ridiculous for anyone to claim the province's education system is floundering.

"Maclean's [magazine ranking] indicates we have the best universities in the country and we tend to believe them," he said.

Ross said the government has introduced many beneficial reforms, such as a move to performance-dependent funding, that have made the post-secondary system stronger and more accessible.

"We continue to make improvements to the system," he said. "We have the highest participation rate we've had in our history."

Shaker said ranking institutions against each other – as Maclean's does – can be instructive, but can only create a distorted image.

"We feel it is sometimes misleading to focus exclusively on institutions without taking into account the contexts in which they exist," she said.

Western president Paul Davenport said the high student to professor ratio at Ontario universities, as well as the province's high tuition levels, are serious issues that have been apparent for some time.

"We need to re-invest public funds into our post-secondary education system."

Davenport, who also acts as chair of the Council of Ontario Universities, said the council has been working with the provincial government to find solutions to these problems, adding the process is still in the negotiating stages.

Davenport said the student/faculty ratio is the most important concern and needs to be addressed. "It hurts the effective quality of education Ontario students receive, in and outside of the classroom."

He said the importance of lowering the ratio is especially pressing due to the significantly higher, double cohort enrolment expected in Ontario universities in 2003.


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