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Canadian Science Policy Centre | Panel 503 - Canada 2067 - Lessons learned in building a national vision for STEM education

Panel 503 - Canada 2067 - Lessons learned in building a national vision for STEM education

Conference Day: 
Day 2 - November 8th 2018
Takeaways and recommendations: 

Canada 2067 – Lessons learned in building a national vision for STEM education

Organized by: Let's Talk Science, Bonnie Schmidt

Speakers: Rob Mariani, Senior Vice President, GM Ottawa, Hill + Knowlton Strategies Canada; Rohan Nuttall, Research Assistant at the Urban Predictive Analytics Lab, University of British Columbia; Andrew Parkin, Director, Mowat Centre; Ruth Silver, Founder, Groundswell Projects

Moderator: Bonnie Schmidt, Founder and President, Let's Talk Science

Takeaways and recommendations

  • Canada’s complex education ecosystem demands creative solutions to catalyze large-scale change that can benefit all students. Canada 2067 responded to this challenge with:

    • five summits with high school students

    • seven Global Shapers’ roundtables with young adults

    • a national leadership conference that included federal and provincial governments and diverse stakeholders, and

    • a social media campaign that resulted in input from hundreds of thousands of Canadians

Understanding the inclusive survey process

  • When designing a system for a specific community (e.g., youth), design it with them, not for them.

  • The Canada 2067 survey was designed to be an inclusive, engaging and educational process for survey takers.

  • Canada 2067 first used a focus group to ask students, “If you could design your education experience what would that look like?” This tactic failed to produce results, so a full day of engagement with speakers and presentations was held, which led to students being asked a new question: how would they design a school on Mars? This new approach encouraged greater engagement and creativity.

There are similar STEM challenges everywhere

  • The challenges Canada faces regarding STEM education are strikingly similar to those being faced around the world.

  • Despite all the conversations about this issue, the challenge still remains.

Some key survey findings

  • For youth, the school experience can be unnatural and irrelevant; they see it as having nothing to do with real life.

  • Teachers are open to change but they need more professional development and resources that will help them enact important changes (e.g., incorporating Indigenous knowledges or new technologies into their classrooms).

  • Parents, overall, are optimistic about the education system. However, they believe children need to get more out of school than they are currently.

  • Generally, there is strong support for redefining education to be issues-based, student-centered and competency-based.

  • Stakeholders support a new vision for education that emphasizes critical thinking over rote learning and a multidisciplinary approach over traditional siloed subjects.

Helping schools build a better STEM experience

  • Although most people involved in the survey– students, thought leaders, teachers, etc. – seem to know what needs to be changed, the system hasn’t yet moved for a number of reasons, including:

    • People tend to focus on short-term challenges with little time to talk about longer-term goals.

    • There are few champions in the school system working on these longer-term issues (e.g., technology change, building relationships with community groups and industry, multidisciplinary approaches). There needs to be more people talking about these issues and more support for those who are.

  • Schools should encourage and facilitate more inter-educator networking so people can share ideas and resources.

What else can be done?

  • STEM conversations tend to focus on promoting the best and brightest students, which can be counterproductive and reinforce existing hierarchies.

  • Instead, the conversation should be culturally positioned to be about everyone. Talk about how all people need to be scientifically literate, good critical thinkers and effective problem solvers.

  • STEM education initiatives like Let’s Talk Science should review their programs and operations from the lens of the survey results and recommendations.

  • Any decision-making about education should actively involve youth.

  • Postsecondary school entry requirements should recognize students who have engaged in innovative approaches to learning.

What’s next for the Canada 2067 report?

  • The survey results and recommendations are being disseminated to a wide audience, including policymakers and other decision makers.

  • The team is working to ensure that any changes that happen as a result of the report, (e.g., leadership conference being planned by teachers that lines up with the Canada 2067 goals) are recognized and celebrated.