Center on International Education Benchmarking

1. Ontario Will Offer Virtual Learning Option for 2021-22

Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced that Ontario will provide a virtual school option for the full school year in 2021-22. He said we heard “…absolutely clearly that parents want that choice for September because we are unsure where the pandemic will take us.” New Democratic Party Critic Marit Stiles suggested that continuing virtual school was not a response to the coronavirus but instead “.. about the government saving money off the backs of our kids.” The Ministry also announced that it would make CAN$2 billion (US$1.6 billion) in new funds available for student mental health supports, learning recovery, and outreach and support to specific populations impacted hardest by the pandemic including Black, indigenous and low-income students. For more, see CP24.

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce
Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce

2. Swiss Higher Ed Qualifications Exceed Vocational Qualifications for First Time

SwissVETSlide

For the first time, the percentage of the Swiss working population with a higher education qualification, including ones from Universities of Applied Sciences, has surpassed those who terminated their education with a vocational qualification. In 2020, 45.3 percent of the working population aged 25-63 had a higher education degree, while 44 percent had an apprenticeship as their highest qualification. Twenty years ago, almost 60 percent of the population completed their education and training at the apprenticeship level. Researchers cite a number of forces at work: 1) more students view higher education degrees as necessary to compete in today’s labor market; 2) Switzerland attracts foreign workers who arrive with higher education levels, 3) Swiss apprentices now have the option to access higher education, including a pathway to a bachelor’s degree in a practical field of study. Economist Rudolf Strahm notes that “[p]eople with vocational training and further education are in high demand on the Swiss labor market, often even more in demand than university graduates.” Read more at Expatica.

3. Australia Launches Review of Teacher Education to Boost Student Outcomes

Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge has appointed a committee of education experts, chaired by former Department of Education Secretary Lisa Paul, to review initial teacher training courses. According to the Minister, high-quality teaching is the vital component of meeting his ambitious goal to lift Australia back up among the ranks of the world’s top-performing education systems by 2030. The committee will focus on how to recruit high-quality teaching candidates and how to effectively prepare them to teach the nation’s students. The Minister said their recommendations “..will help ensure we attract high quality motivated candidates into teaching and develop them into teachers with the skills our students need.” Rachel Wilson, an associate professor at the University of Sydney, said this effort is not enough: “We need a cross-party coalition and 10-year plan to address the issues we are facing.” Michele Simons, president of the Australian Council of Deans of Education, echoed this sentiment and called for more professional learning opportunities for teachers at all stages, not just new graduates. The committee will release a draft report to the public in June with the full review expected to be completed within six months. See the Minister’s press release or the Sydney Morning Herald for more information.

Australia Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge
Australia Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge

4. Taiwan Expands English Instruction in Higher Ed; Part of Effort Become Bilingual by 2030

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen

Taiwan’s Ministry of Education is recruiting leading universities to join a NT$35.5 million (US$22.8 million) program that aims to make half of all graduates bilingual in English and Chinese over the next decade. Currently, only about 20 percent of graduates are bilingual. Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen first announced the “Bilingual Nation by 2030 Project” in 2018. The Ministry of Education has since increased recruitment of English teachers and plans to significantly expand its budget for bilingual education. During government-wide consultations on the issue last fall, Tsai stressed that reaching a high degree of English proficiency is “key to raising Taiwan’s profile abroad.”