Meeting 3 - June 30, 2016

Learning Advisory Council

Location: Stratford City Hall, Stratford, Prince Edward Island


4:30 – 4:40 Welcome & Introductions

4:40 – 5:00 Review and Approval of Discussion Summary (Meeting of April 20, 2016)

5:00 – 5:30 Aspirations for PEI in 2031
Given the importance of learning to the overall prosperity of Islanders and the province, the workshop will start with an exploration of your goals and aspirations for PEI 15 years from now: thinking about Island society and citizenship, the people, the communities, the economies, the opportunities, our health, well-being and resilience.

5:30 – 6:30 Discussion on Trends Shaping Education
The OECD, in its 2016 Report on Trends Shaping Education, has identified a number of social, demographic, economic and technological trends and their impact (directly or indirectly) on education. This discussion will focus in on 10 of these trends, but council members are encouraged to raise other trends they feel are important to the PEI context (a link to the larger OECD report is provided). A discussion on how to make use of these trends will also be initiated.

6:30 – 7:00 Light Meal

7:00 – 7:30 Discussion on Trends Shaping Education (continued)

7:30 – 8:45 Futures Thinking in Learning / Scenario Development
Futures thinking offers ways to explore possible or plausible futures (next 10 – 15 years) for learning and learners. According to the OECD it “is about stimulating strategic dialogue, widening our understanding of the possible, strengthening leadership, and informing decision-making.” The futures thinking framework and how it can be used to generate scenarios (ie prototyping) for learning in the future will be presented and discussed.

8:45 – 9:15 Reporting Back

9:15 – 9:30 Closing Remarks

Briefing Materials

Selected Trends on Learning (PEI) (542 Kb)

Facilitator Presentation: Trends and Futures for Learning (3.8 Mb)

Discussion Summary - Meeting 3


Comparison of the “Goals and Directions for Learning” with “What is learning for ?”
LPAC Input on Trends Shaping Education, June 2016 

In Attendance:

Co-Chairs H. Wade MacLauchlan and Bill Whelan

Members: Amada Brazil, Amber Jadis, Angela Arsenault, Anna MacKenzie, Bethany MacLeod, Bonnie Stewart, Jackie Charchuk, Donald DesRoches, Jeff Brant, Kathleen Flanagan, Lori Johnston, Michelle MacCallum, Moira McGuire, Natalie Mitton, Peter Rukavina, Rocio McCallum, Ron MacDonald, Shawn Loo, Tracy Michael

Ex officio members: Sharon Cameron, Teresa Hennebery, Susan Willis

Resources: Dave Cormier, Facilitator; Tayte Willows, Assistant; Wendy MacDonald, Secretary

Guest: Pat Campbell, Engagement Officer EELC

Regrets: Anne Bernard-Bourgeois,

1. Welcome and Introductions

Co-chair MacLauchlan called the meeting to order at 4:30 p.m., welcomed the members and facilitator Dave Cormier, and led a round of introductions.

2. Approval of the Summary of Meeting 2, April 20, 2016

Co-chair MacLauchlan asked for any comments on the summary of the Council’s second meeting, on April 20 2016, previously circulated by email. Corrections were made to the attendance record. It was agreed that the summary reflects the discussion and input of the members and is ready to share with the public.

Prince Edward Island in 2031: Aspirations

Co-chair Whelan noted the goal of this first session: to step back and imagine PEI fifteen years from now, reflecting on our goals and opportunities.

Facilitator Cormier recapped the purpose of futures thinking: not to predict, but to imagine, and emphasized that we were asked to think about the province as a whole, not the education system. The aim of this part of the process is to generate divergence – to put forward a range of ideas and concepts to show the span of what is possible. He then asked each table to discuss some features of PEI on Canada Day 2050, and visually represent them. This exercise generated the following concepts:

  • Table 1: Isolation – people in silos. Visual – people sleeping in pods floating in the ocean. We have gotten rid of disease. We can transmit thoughts to each other – connecting in new ways – but at the same time are losing human contact with each other.
  • Table 2: We can be in two places at once – able to communicate our thoughts. Peace in the world. New forms of transport: hovercraft.
  • Table 3: Transport concepts included teleportation from one place to another, personal hovercraft. Multi-lingual. Tasks are carried out by a series of robots. Societies are interconnected (this was noted as the opposite of the isolation imagined by Table 1.)
  • Table 4: Time machines, teleportation. Sleeping pods, healing pods. Remote learning. Community gardens, living harmoniously.
  • Table 5: Two clusters of visions:
    • Back to the basics – a dystopian version where those with basic skills, like blacksmithing, will survive, and a small is beautiful version where automation and robotics enable people to live close to the land in more harmony with nature.
    • Technology – people are wired into a digital world. Virtual reality enables people to ‘see’ to shop without ever leaving their homes – stores become obsolete.
    • Generally, peace, diversity, cultures living together.

Facilitator Cormier asked to group to focus next on PEI in 2031, noting again that the goal at this point is divergence of ideas. First, he took a few minutes to recap the emergence of new ideas and approaches to education over time:

  • 63 B.C. – Rome to Rhodes, Caesar travelled to see a famous teacher. Costly and hazardous.
  • ~800, Charlemagne – It was seen as essential that all priests be able to speak Latin properly and consistently to carry out their work, so standardized education was born.
  • 1229 – An advertising flyer for the University of Toulouse promoted their access to ideas, noting that in Paris, certain books were banned by the Church.
  • 1798 – in Switzerland, Pestalozzi pursued a goal that all Swiss at all socio-economic levels should be able to read, and promoted an ‘all can teach’ approach through his book, How Gertrude Teaches the Children.
  • 1876 – a U.S. Department of Education report highlighted Britain’s approach that education was mandatory. Parents not sending their children to school were jailed. At that time, the Standard IV requirement for basic schooling, ending at about age 11, prepared children to take on low-level jobs in factories.

Emerging and evolving themes in many of those trends were centralized control, and preparation of children to be workers. Success was defined as finishing.

Facilitator Cormier then posed the question, what is education for today? He asked each table to take a few minutes to discuss this and to keep notes of their discussion. Following, he discussed the three categories of challenges that learning systems must prepare people for (simple, complicated and complex). He then asked each participant to write down their views. While the tables did not report back this element, the individual views were gathered and are contained in the right-hand column of Attachment One. It is noted that Attachment One contains an initial comparison of the goals and directions for learning (identified by the Council in meeting 2) with “What is learning for?” identified by the Council in meeting 3.

4. Trends Shaping Education and Implications for PEI

Facilitator Cormier outlined the second step of the process: to look at some selected trends shaping education, drawn from a longer list developed by the OECD in its work over the past 15 years on education futures. These trends have been identified as relevant in the PEI context and with available data, and summary information had been circulated to the Council earlier in the week. The full OECD report is linkable at OECD 2016 Trends.

The approach being used to consider the trends is also derived from the OECD’s methodology, described more fully in the OECD Starterpack (875 Kb), a summary of which had been circulated to the Council. This model examines the implications of trends for five aspects of education and learning, from which the Facilitator Cormier has developed questions for consideration:

  1. Attitudes, Expectations, Political Support: “How does this impact the people of PEI’s perspective on schools and learning?”
  2. Goals, Functions, Equity: “How does this impact what schools and learning are for?”
  3. Organizations and Structures: “What other kinds / organizations of learning are impacted by this?”
  4. The Geo-Political Dimension: “How does this impact the governance of education and learning?”
  5. The Teaching Force: “Who is a teacher for this trend? What do they need to do?”

Facilitator Cormier noted that the trends would be presented a couple at a time, in four sets, and each table would be asked to consider the questions in sequence. E.g. table 1 would consider question 1 for the first two trends, question 2 for the second, and so on; table 2 would start with question 2, and so on – generating the maximum diversity of perspectives on each set of trends.  He further requested participants to identify additional trends and further data needs as desired, to shape follow-up research.

Demographic Trends

The first two trends:

  • Profiled the drop in birthrate since the early 1990s; and
  • Depicted the widely varying rates of population growth and decline across the province, ranging from decline in the rural extremities to strong growth in some areas around the capital.

It was noted that the projections into the future are not fixed, and can be affected by public policy to some degree. The impacts for education are twofold, with:

  • Enrolment dropping much more sharply in some communities than in others (complicated challenge); and
  • Increasing diversity in our schools, encompassing the cultural diversity of newcomers, a greater range of age and learning needs in split-grade classrooms, and a growing scope and scale of special needs in the classroom (complex challenge).

Income and Fiscal Trends

The second set of trends:

  • Highlighted the variations by family structure in the need to rely on the Social Assistance Program, with lone parent taxfilers about six times as likely as couple families to report such income in 2013 – as well as variations in different regions of the province; and
  • Summarized the pattern of education spending, with investments per student and number of teachers increasing strongly during the 2000s as enrolment declined, and retrenchment in recent years.

[Supper break, 6:30 to 7:00 p.m.]

Thriving Communities, Help for Families, Health and Wellness Trends

This group of trends shows the following patterns:

  • At the community level, a comparatively healthy social fabric but one showing signs of stress, including high levels of trust, high voter turnout, and high but eroding levels of volunteerism and charitable giving;
  • For families, extensive measures both past and planned to assist with income, health, and well-being;
  • With regard to health and wellness, generally poorer outcomes than in other parts of Canada.

E-Society and the i-Self Trends

The final set of slides pertained to digital technologies, highlighting:

  • The lower than average access to internet in the home for Islanders, and
  • The variations in access by income levels, with the differential confined to those Islanders in the bottom two income quartiles.

As such, Facilitator Cormier noted, the internet can not only include, but also exclude.

Sahlberg Trends

In closing, Facilitator Cormier outlined a set of education trends which Finnish education scholar Pasi Sahlberg had identified, and viewed as being “anti-Finnish” in terms of their model of education:

  • Standardization of education
  • Focus on core subjects in school
  • The search for low-risk ways to reach learning goals
  • Use of corporate management models
  • Adoption of test-based accountability policies for schools

The input gathered during the individual table discussions on trends was organized into an input document and is contained in Attachment Two. Further analysis and synthesis of this input is required.

5. Education Futures: Table Exercise

Dave asked the tables, next, to draw together all the trends and questions that they had discussed, and weave them together to imagine the future of education in PEI, generating five scenarios. The intent is that the Council’s next meeting will focus on convergence – building upon these five futures to collectively define the future of education in PEI.

6. Plenary

Following their discussions, the tables reported back to the full group.

  • Table 5: it was noted that over the course of the evening, the initially highly divergent views of the table had moved toward a convergent view of the future. Collectively, the trends that have been presented are not taking PEI to where we want to go. Education has been a priority for every PEI government for the past 20 years but are we coming to terms with what’s working and what’s not? Government has changed the structure of the system without a vision of what we want the system to be. Meanwhile challenges are growing in terms of socio-economic disparities, classroom diversity, and competition for resources. Based on this discussion, the table depicted their imagined future of education as an image of various train tracks (e.g. progress monitoring, smart boards, restructuring, etc.) leading us into the future. The destination has not been defined (vision) and the various ending points cannot be discerned because they are hidden in fog.
  • Table 4: In the context of an aging population and shifts to central PEI, the group saw a future of hubs in the cities, and people in rural PEI, with a two-way flow and better opportunities in rural areas. Connectivity with each other is shown by the Islanders holding hands. Connectivity with the world is shown by the links to Earth. And balance is shown by the scales, symbolizing greater equality in PEI.
  • Table 3: Stress and anxiety are increasing in youth. There is a disconnect and a lack of integration between schools and their communities. Socio-economic disparities and challenges are affecting learning. An area where we need to gain ground is families – with regard to their lack of supports and connectedness. Many children are living in families suffering dysfunction. But on the positive side, PEI is experiencing greater economic opportunity and there is tremendous potential, much of it untapped. Our growing diversity is positive, and we do have high levels of connectivity to each other and the world.
  • Table 2: French schools are a model in terms of their integration with community. It’s not all on the teacher – so they can do what they do best. Other partners – parent engagement, sports, music – take some of the pressure off. Diversity is an advantage to education and we should capitalize on it. Students have authentic learning experiences, and the structure of the learning day is more flexible. Community resources help achieve equality in education, offsetting the fact that some children have more external resources.
  • Table 1: Learning – for whom does it turn into opportunity, and who not? Credentials are marginalizing and exclusionary. In a world of Khan Academy, are we needed? The group kept seeing disconnects. The vision is the same as for parenting – we are too safety-centric. It takes a village to educate a child. This is a time of change – what are the things we need to look towards?

7. Wrap-up and Next Steps

In closing, the group discussed next steps. A number of members expressed an interest in meeting sooner than October, or meeting in smaller groups prior to the next Council meeting. It was agreed we will look at holding the next meeting sooner than October. Meantime, it was noted, the UPEI Faculty of Education is hosting PEI’s first Digital Pedagogy Lab July 13-15, exploring the use of digital technologies in education.

As well, the suggestion was reiterated that the Council should have an online space where members could post readings and share their thinking. Following some discussion and ideas, a Council member agreed to set up the group on the Slack app for online collaboration.

A question was also raised as to how ambitious the Council should be in its thinking as it works together informally over the coming months. Co-chair MacLauchlan encouraged the group to take as wide a scope as they wished.

Member “give and get”:

A letter and newly developed information brochure from the President of the Teacher-Librarian Association, regarding the key role of school libraries in the education system, was distributed to members of the Council.
The critical role and importance of the early childhood years was emphasized and it was asked whether any early childhood educators are attending the upcoming digital education session.

In closing, the Co-Chairs again thanked members for their contributions and commitment to the work.


Published date: 
December 30, 2016
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