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We’re not the worst, study says

by The Concordian January 24, 2001
Quebec has one of the better education systems in the country, according to a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).
But being at the top of rankings might only be a dubious honour, said Erika Shaker, director of the CCPA Education Project and a co-author of the report.
“Being in first place does not mean you’re the best. It means you’re the least bad,” she said. “There’s a good deal of room for improvement.”
The CCPA used data available free from Statistics Canada. That meant it could only do comparisons by province, not by institution.
Quebec has the lowest college and university tuition in Canada. It also had the most low-income earners with a post-secondary education.
Its provincial government pays more than 67 per cent of the costs of post-secondary education, the highest rate in any province. “This is something we hold very highly,” Shaker said.
But student-professor ratios in Quebec colleges and universities are increasing, and only 25.3 per cent of the faculty are women, placing Quebec in ninth place.
Quebec also has a low participation rate: only 16.4 per cent of 18-to-24-year-olds attend college and university.
The CCPA began its ranking of post-secondary education last year. “We were concerned that conventional ranking systems focused too much on individual institutions. It doesn’t deal with the issues at hand,” Shaker said.
Individual rankings are flawed because they rely too much on reputation, she said.
“It doesn’t say anything about the quality of the innstitution. The size of alumni and the age of the institution will have an impact.” Comparing McGill and Concordia would be a good example of this, she said.
Shaker also thought it was admirable for Quebec to opt out of the federal government’s Millennium Scholarship program. “It’s a way for the federal government to justify the withdrawl of money from the [education] system, then putting the money back in.”
She also said many students could not fully benefit from the scholarchips anyway because some provinces deduct scholarship amounts from the maximum allowable student loan.
CSU President Rob Green agreed with many of the report’s findings, but was disappointed that ancillary fees – like Concordia’s administration fee – were not considered.
“That would have probably affected our rating for accessibility,” he said. “Overall, it’s pretty clear that for the race to the bottom, we’re losing – which is good.”
But Green feared Quebec’s policy-makers are bevoming increasing envious of Ontario’s right-wing policies when it comes to education.
Ontario placed last in the CCPA’s survey bacause of its soaring tuition, lack of provincial funding and poor student-faculty ratio.
Concordia’s administration is still looking into the study and has not yet commented.
You can find the study at www.policyalternatives.ca

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