Fall 2018

Canada 2067 – Imagining the future of STEM education for Canada

Students engaged in meaningful science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning opportunities develop the skills and abilities needed to become creative, critical thinkers, discoverers, entrepreneurs, problem solvers and informed citizens. Exploring what this means for the future of education is at the heart of Canada 2067.

In a time when most Canadian youth disengage from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) studies before high school graduation, we need to better prepare them for a future where disruptive technologies and changes in the labour market will reward highly skilled workers. Thousands of Canadians contributed to the development of the Canada 2067 Learning Roadmap – a set of key recommendations to ensure Canadian youth will be prepared to contribute and thrive in an ever more complex and technologically intensive world.

“Together with our many partners and champions, Let’s Talk Science led the development of the first-ever national vision and roadmap that everyone can use to ensure Canadian youth are ready to participate in a rapidly changing world that is underpinned by STEM,” says Dr. Bonnie Schmidt, President of Let’s Talk Science. “The goal is for all students to develop a full range of skills needed to navigate an increasingly complex world and have equal opportunity and pursue diverse career paths.”

What started as an idea for a single conference, grew to include an international policy review, five youth summits, six millennial roundtable consultations, a national leadership conference, a youth-focused web series and documentary, and significant social media and outreach effort. Canada 2067 youth summits inspired, engaged and empowered more than 1,000 Grade 9 and 10 students across Canada who contributed to the development of a national vision for STEM education.

“I didn’t know that STEM was so vast, and that there is so much opportunity within it. I think that classes should have more demonstrations and that they should start teaching technology at a young age,” says a student from the Toronto summit. “I think it’s absolutely phenomenal for everyone who is here to learn, there are people here who are very inspired and inspire us.”

Canadian education is among the best in the world, but we cannot be complacent. In 2016, as Let’s Talk Science considered how it might celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial, the organization chose to be more forward-thinking and catalyze the first significant national dialogue about STEM education, focusing on Kindergarten to Grade 12 (K-12). For inspiration, Let’s Talk Science focused on Canada’s bicentennial year (2067) when many of today’s high school students will be considering their retirement.

With a user-centric design, the Canada 2067 Youth Summits emphasized the importance of youth participation. Discussion topics were organized into five challenge areas to provide a discussion framework used by students to create their vision for a new school system. Challenge areas were specifically designed to draw on students’ lived experiences, providing insight to their current wants and needs, as well as opportunities they see for creating a more engaging education system that aligns with their values, motivations and aspirations.

Students understand the world is changing at an unprecedented rate and realize adults don’t have all the answers – but they aren’t scared! Today, youth are enthusiastic about the opportunity for school to be a learning environment for everyone, including teachers, administrators and students.

Thousands of ideas and hundreds of unique concepts from 125 student teams across Canada synthesized into ten unique themes. These ten insights were consistent across all youth summits.

10 Key Insights Gathered From 1,000 Youth Across Canada

  1. Personalized learning
    The future of STEM education doesn’t look the same for every student.
  2. Student collaboration
    Students work and learn from each other and play a key role in shaping their education.
  3. Technology in the classroom
    Technology is critical to improving the learning process.
  4. Changing the education curriculum
    Engage students in STEM early in their education.
  5. Experiential learning
    Connect STEM learning to real life problems in a hands-on way.
  6. Mentorship
    Students seek meaningful relationships with caring and trustworthy adults.
  7. Critical thinking & problem solving
    Resiliency and flexibility are essential for today’s education and tomorrow’s jobs.
  8. Self-awareness & counselling
    STEM education and self-awareness are connected and help students develop the skills to manage their own improvement and move towards new directions.
  9. Well-being
    Students wish for a school culture that is supportive, encouraging and inspiring; a place where diversity and inclusion are practiced and cultivated.
  10. Comfortable spaces
    Learning spaces must be safe, clean, bright and inspiring.

Students are urging us to imagine the future of STEM education as integrally connected to the arts and humanities. In fact, they want to collapse disciplines and teach subjects in an interdisciplinary, inquiry-based way. Using real problems to teach concepts would allow students to deepen their understanding of foundational theories through application.

The Canada 2067 Youth Summit results highlight the value of students’ ideas as well as the surprising uniformity of their wants and needs for education transformation. The thoughtful recommendations from students demonstrate creative and hopeful thinking with intended impact and results that can inform our nation’s decision makers’ next steps.

“Most surprising of all, perhaps, was the alignment of thinking across audiences. Educators, students, parents, policy-makers – everyone agreed that we must move towards inter-disciplinary learning that focuses on building skills rather than content knowledge,” says Schmidt. “There is alignment regarding the critical role of educators as well as the importance of having parents and the community even more involved in education.”

Key recommendations include:

How we teach:

  • Teachers have the opportunity to participate in professional development at least once per year in areas related to STEM.
  • Teachers and community partners across regions are linked together, forming dynamic professional learning communities
  • Implement competency and inquiry-based curricula and initiatives to help teachers develop the necessary skills to instruct STEM and encourage critical inquiry.

How we learn:

  • Take advantage of new information and communications technologies (ICTs) to transform teaching and learning into an interactive and student-centred experience.
  • Provide appropriate training, support and resources for teachers to implement these approaches.
  • Evolve post-secondary education entry requirements to recognize and value students who have engaged in innovative approaches to learning.

What we learn:

  • All students graduate high school with at least one senior level interdisciplinary STEM course.
  • All students engage in hands-on learning opportunities with partners outside the school at least once per year.
  • Number of students enrolled in STEM-related fields in post-secondary education increases each year.

Who’s involved:

  • STEM learning community partners align their programs with the Canada 2067 recommendations and work together to provide hands-on learning opportunities that are accessible to all students.
  • Industry aligns 20% of community investment goals in education to support the achievement of Canada 2067 recommendations.
  • Governments commit at least 1% of STEM research budgets to support the achievement of Canada 2067 recommendations.

Where education leads:

  • Students access information about STEM education and future careers in daily school curriculum and hands-on learning opportunities in the community.
  • Links between STEM learning in the classroom and experiential learning in the community are improved.
  • All parents have access to information and support about STEM education and future careers.

Equity and inclusivity:

  • Improve student participation in STEM courses by gender, culture, socio-economic background and region.
  • STEM education evolves to address the specific needs of Indigenous students and to incorporate other world views.

The vision of Canada 2067 is to enable students to graduate with doors open to diverse careers, with the capacity to be active and informed citizens, and with the full range of skills needed to navigate an increasingly complex and demanding world. Together, we can keep the momentum going and ensure the future is bright and prosperous for Canadian youth. Please help us showcase and implement the Canada 2067 recommendations. Together, we will help our kids prepare for their futures. Visit Canada2067.ca for all the tools and resources, and final recommendations.

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AUTHOR BIO:

Sunaina Sharma is a secondary English teacher and department head. She is a recent graduate of Nipissing University’s PhD in Education (Educational Sustainability) program. Her research explores how digital technologies engage and disengage students. By listening in to what students say and don’t say, she strives to cultivate a learning environment that engages, challenges, and informs her students.

Michelann Parr is professor in the Schulich School of Education at Nipissing University. She currently teaches in the PhD program at Nipissing. Over the years, she has researched the inclusive use of technology in the classroom with a focus on text-to-speech and speech-to-text technologies; from students, she learned that the use of technology is about the right to choose when and where, the right to use without question, and the right to refuse.