An excellent article in the Economist this week discusses educational reforms since the introduction of the PISA tests. The article singles out Ontario for its success at getting better outcomes across the board and herald Premier McGuinty’s efforts. Too bad for him maybe 0.2 percent of his voters read the Economist. It talks about Poland, Asia and other locations as well. It’s a thorough and interesting read.
However, it doesn’t touch on the determinant of educational attainment at a society level that I am most interested in – the link between educational attainment and migration.
There is considerable data to suggest that the more educated you are the more likely you are to leave a place like New Brunswick. Some of the Census data on this issue that I have seen confirms this (although we have talked about the Fort McMurray effect in recent years which is not correlated with education). There are other indicators too such as the fact that at least since the 1950s New Brunswick graduated more from university than the Canadian average (that is petering out now) but didn’t make up ground – comparatively as to the percentage of persons with university degrees. As I point out, until recently, BC had the lowest level of persons enrolled in university and the highest level of university graduates in their workforce. They didn’t need to graduate them because they were importing them from places like New Brunswick. Now, that province has been ramping up university education.
I think this is an important discussion to have not because I am calling for an illiteracy focus in order to keep people from leaving but because we need to understand the linkage between economic development and educational attainment. A better focus on this could lead to greater alignment between education and industry needs. It could further hone the link between essential skills, productivity and the strength of an economy. It could also help us think more broadly about the links between the public sector and private economic development.
There are those who think education attainment, increased literacy and numeracy, etc. are to be pursued single mindedly without these other considerations. I have talked with education sector thinker who dismiss my migration theories outright.
But my point is that they are connected whether we want to discuss them or not. If we work hard to focus on education, we could just be greasing the wheels of more out-migration unless we have the broader conversation.
Dr. Michael Haan’s demographics research shows that New Brunswickers who moved away (using Census data) are three times more likely to have a university education than those that stayed. That alone should be enough of a kick in the arse to start talking about these links.