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Education one of Canada's strong suits

Bright spot in report that shows Canada is less innovative than other wealthy nations

While Canada lags behind other wealthy countries in terms of innovation and environmental stewardship, it performs quite well on the education and skills file, according to a report released by the Conference Board of Canada.

The study examined the performance of 17 countries and found that Canada’s education system ranks second—one spot better than last year—with a B grade. Finland finished first with the only A grade. Italy finished last, the only country to score a D in the category.

The Conference Board lamented the poor adult literacy rate in Canada.

“Canada’s one-size-fits-all policy in education, however, is not working for the more than 7 million Canadian adults who don’t have the literacy skills considered necessary for success in today’s economy and society. Four out of ten Canadian adults have difficulty coping with the literacy and numeracy demands of modern life and work, undermining both the productivity and the adaptability of the workforce.”

How can Canada improve its performance?

“Canadians need to have access to education and skills outside the traditional school system. Currently, Canadian employers are notoriously low investors in workplace training programs. And of what they do invest, only a very small percentage—less than 2 per cent—goes to basic literacy skills. As a result, the Canadian training system does not compensate for people who, for various reasons, may not have acquired skills at school.”

The report also says that Canada produces relatively few “high-end” PhD graduates, and the bulk of them are involved in fields that don’t contribute much to enhancing productivity and innovation. The Conference Board recommends that Canadian policymakers work to increase the amount of PhDs in fields such as math, science and engineering.