Education is important to the well-being and health of people, and by extension, to the community as a whole. High-quality education needs to be viewed as a fundamental right available to all—without undue burden or barriers.
The just, equitable, and sustainable global society that is necessary to successfully address and survive the increasing tragedies caused by climate change—from extreme weather events to bloody conflicts—will not be realized if people are poorly educated, and easily exploited by those who directly benefit from discord and tragedy.
Some religious, political, and economic actors actively engage in short-term, self-serving campaigns to prevent successfully addressing the harm and disruptions caused by climate change. Others traffic in falsehoods, fear, bigotry, prejudice, and racism—all of which are abetted by ignorance and poor education.
High-quality education is a necessary aspect of protecting our community, livelihoods, and well-being from those who’d wreck them for their own immediate aggrandizement.
In Canada, more and more people are falling victim to ‘fake news’. Education is important in teaching critical thinking skills thereby providing greater protection from those who seek to traffic in malicious political propaganda and fallacious arguments.
A well-educated, informed population is necessary for individuals and their nation to succeed and for citizens who can appreciate, fully understand, and support the policies needed to create it.
In Canada, all forms of post-secondary education, whether in academia or the trades, have become prohibitively costly for people without independent financial means, leaving young people to carry large debt loads.
Investing in the public, as a whole
APPC proposes that education be considered a public investment in the nation as a whole, and be fully funded from kindergarten to post-graduate levels including advanced skill training in non-academic fields.
For example, removing financial barriers would ensure that most citizens, regardless of personal or family circumstances, could fully participate in and contribute to the economic, cultural, and political life of the nation. It would also ensure that citizens could transition from career to career as necessary.
Countries such as Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland, France, Belgium, Greece, and Spain offer various types of free education to both citizens and foreign students.
Denmark, for example, offers free education, where students get paid to assist with outside costs. Students over the age of 18 are entitled to six years free study. Students who don’t live with their parents also receive an additional monthly grant to assist with housing and living costs. Danes invest in education through higher taxes providing the government with the funding necessary to invest in education and other important social programs.(1)
(1) Brad Lengden, The Country WhereYou Get Paid For Being a Student; Student Problems, 23 February, 2018.
Denmark is one of many examples suggesting that we look to the Nordic Model when informing educational policy. Broadly, the Nordic Model is a proposed framework that focuses on treating education as a public good (2). Although Nordic countries and Canada intersect in terms of public primary and secondary education, Nordic countries are unique in that they tend to emphasize tuition-free postsecondary education and limited privatization of educational institutions (2; 3). Conversely, Canada’s emphasis on both public and private education prevents universally free tuition from being enacted (6). The Canadian population would likely benefit from an expansion of public education, alleviating debt concerns of many young people entering the workforce. Additionally, Nordic countries emphasize nationalized education programs (2),
allowing for more centralized and consistent education across a country.
Based on polling data, it appears that adapting our education system to mimic Nordic frameworks would be popular among Canadians. Firstly, a significant majority of Canadians believe that postsecondary education has a positive impact on the country and is extremely relevant to our economy and society (4). Moreover, 93% of Canadians would opt to receive a postsecondary education if it were tuition-free: a significant difference compared to the proportion of Canadian adults with postsecondary level qualifications, which was 54% according to the 2016 Census (5). The data also indicates that “eliminating post-secondary tuition entirely” is supported by the majority of Canadians (4).
Despite the theoretical utility of a Nordic framework, external factors hinder the success of certain political endeavours. For example, neo-liberalism, a political framework highlighting the deregulation of markets, has expanded in Nordic countries, causing a decrease in funding for education and welfare programs (2). Therefore, if a Nordic framework is employed, it is important for both federal and provincial governments to reduce cuts when possible.
Canada is structured differently than the Nordic countries in that education operates at a provincial level, although Nordic-like features are still attainable in Canada. These goals can be achieved through various mediums, such as the federal government adjusting the tax rate in order to allow proper funding for educational programs at all levels. For example, a federal tax increase on high income-earners and corporations could help the government eliminate student loans and allocate funds towards non-repayable grants (6). Additionally, provincial and federal governments use a proportion of their GDP for paying off bad debt; allocating the same amount of GDP towards grants would significantly reduce future debt for students (6).
In terms of eliminating student loans, a funding “sweet spot” may be between 0.03% and 0.04% of annual government GDP. This is supported by the fact that Newfoundland previously opted to allocate 0.035% of its annual GDP to replacing provincial loans with grants (6). Additionally, the United States Democratic Party emphasized that between 0.03 and 0.04% of the US GDP should be allocated annually to eliminating post-secondary education debt (6). Therefore, Canadian federal and provincial governments could look to these examples when deciding how to allocate their respective funds to free postsecondary education.
Moreover, the federal government can help the provincial government provide education that is more consistent throughout the country by providing whatever resources are necessary, such as funding for cross-country education programs. This would allow for a more unified and well- informed population while preparing future generations for success.
APPC maintains that education is a fundamental human right. Furthermore, we recognize that a solid educational foundation includes a number of core subjects such as mathematics, literacy, science and arts. Given the importance of environmental awareness and climate change, APPC proposes that “environment” be deemed as a core subject, both on a nominal and on a policy level. We believe this is necessary in order to fulfill the population’s right to education.
The Canadian education system has successfully incorporated environmental programs across various age groups, which can serve as a model for further expansion of environmental education. On a policy level, this means that if cuts are directed towards education, “environment” should be prioritized and maintained like other core subjects. Global warming is a festering crisis and it must be ensured that the younger generation has a sense of environmental literacy. Therefore, including “environment” as a major subject will help students think differently about how we relate to our habitat, wildlife and the planet.
(1) Brad Lengden, The Country WhereYou Get Paid For Being a Student; Student
Problems, 23 Febuary, 2018.
(2) Antikainen, A. (2006). In Search of the Nordic Model in Education. Scandinavian
Journal of Educational Research, 50(3), 229-243. doi:10.1080/00313830600743258
(3) Dalipi, F., Ferati, M., & Kurti, A. (2018). Integrating MOOCs in Regular Higher
Education: Challenges and Opportunities from a Scandinavian Perspective. Learning and
Collaboration Technologies. Design, Development and Technological Innovation
Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 193-204. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-91743-6_15
(4) Canadian Association of University Teachers, New polling shows Canadians believe in
post-secondary education, and so should our federal political parties; July, 2019.
(5) Back to school.. by the numbers; Statistics Canada, 2018.
(6) Free Post-Secondary Education: The case for eliminating tuition fees; Canadian
Federation of Students- Ontario, 2015.