|CONFERENCE FOCUSES ON ADULT|
MONTREAL, JANUARY 15, 2003— Quebec Minister of State for Education and Employment Sylvain Simard and former Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations Stephen Lewis lauded the importance of lifelong learning recently at the Sheraton Laval during a two day conference entitled Adult Education: A Lifelong Journey.
Simard and Lewis were keynote speakers at the event, organized by the Ministry of Education, in collaboration with the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) and the Lester B. Pearson School Board. The EMSB was responsible for planning and organizing the event. Close to 500 adult education teachers, professionals and administrators from across the province attended a plethora of sessions designed to invite discussion and debate about educational reform in the adult education milieu.
The conference focused attention on the new curriculum reform and how it will affect the adult sector. Mr. Lewis, who continues to act as a special envoy for the UN, emphasized how educational reform is a universal phenomenon taking shape simultaneously around the world. "Wherever I go in the world people want to learn," he said. "What is fascinating to me is how the world has begun to understand that if someone has an education in their early years and supplements it in later life you improve the world overall".
Mr. Simard spoke of the need to eradicate illiteracy and fill in gaps in basic education. Employment-related adult education and continuing education and training, he continued, are responsibilities shared by partners in a wide range of sectors including education, cultural communities, economic, scientific, and health.
"The new curriculum will require the development of competencies related to citizenship, culture and employability," said Mr. Simard. "These important dimensions of adult life are experienced differently in the various linguistic and cultural communities of Quebec. School boards, and especially their teaching staffs, will have a large role to play in ensuring that the curriculum in these areas is sensitive, realistic and adapted to the lives of their adult students".
People’s access to knowledge and learning throughout their lives is one of the conditions for cultural, social and economic development. The actions undertaken by the provincial government to combat poverty and social exclusion can have lasting effects only if people enhance and update their competencies continually. From this perspective, the adoption of a government policy aimed at lifelong learning is of strategic importance for Quebec. Special concern is being paid to certain groups within the overall population:
"This is a government policy, not the policy of a single ministry," stated Mr. Simard. "As a government policy, it serves to establish priorities for all ministries, especially those responsible for education, employment, job training, citizenship and immigration. The Quebec government adopted this policy to ensure that all these ministries work together toward common goals. This policy on lifelong learning recognizes that learning is important to Quebec citizens of all ages and throughout their lives. Learning does not stop when a child leaves the school building; it continues in after-school activities, in the home and in the community. Similarly, adult learning takes place in many contexts: at work, at home, in the community and in formal school settings. Clearly, lifelong learning does not have the same meaning as lifelong schooling."
Lewis, who received a loud standing ovation following his highly charged address, commended the conference organizers and the Quebec government for the efforts they are placing on lifelong learning. "I don’t know of any other province in the country which is giving adult education the same centrality," he said.
Delegates to the conference participated in more than 20 highly interactive workshops. And they came away with glowing reviews of their experiences.
Linda Oliveira, a teacher at St. Pius X Adult Centre of the EMSB, said she found Lewis to be very inspiring. "He showed us that the role of a teacher is worth a lot more than just a body in a room," she said. "A small teacher in a small classroom can make a world of difference."
Lynn Larocque, who teaches for the Kativik School Board in Nunuvut, was also impressed with Lewis. "For teachers like me who are based in small, remote centers, he really spoke our language," she said. "It was inspiring what he said and it makes teachers like me want to do even more."
Owen Mailloux, who teaches in the Gaspé for the Eastern Shores School Board, found the conference to be educational. "I’ve been teaching for 35 years and you are always learning something new," he said. "This conference is a good example of that. It was most enjoyable."
Lenny Prost, a teacher at the Pontiac Centre in Shawville, part of the Western Quebec School Board, left the conference filled with new ideas. "I was especially interested in discussions about creating an adult learning centre which meets the needs of the community," he said. "Maybe we need to bring someone back to school by offering them something like a cooking course first and then once they are comfortable being back in this type of setting they will consider the academic courses as well."
Marielle Green, who teaches at the Woodland Adult Centre of the Lester B. Pearson School Board, found the selection of session animators to be excellent. "Their enthusiasm rubbed off on the delegates," she stated. "They were especially good listeners and that is an attribute which as a teacher I can really appreciate."
Katharine Childs from the Cowansville Centre for Lifelong Learning, part of the Eastern Townships School Board, attends educational conferences around the world. "I am so happy to see an adult education conference of this stature taking place in Montreal," she said. "It certainly gives us a bit of pride. When I attend conferences internationally, I am often the only adult education instructor in the room. Here we had about 500 adult education teachers. That is significant."
Maggie Soldano, who teaches at the Chomedey Adult Centre of the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board, also had high marks for the organizers. "It was an excellent conference," she said. "I was very impressed by the level of participation. Everyone who attended learned a great deal."
Brenda Lee, a pedagogical consultant at the Riverside School Board, congratulated the planners for their vision. "This conference was a terrific idea," she said. "And it was long overdue. Teachers are in the forefront and they need to be part of the process of sharing information."
Other speakers at the conference included Assistant Deputy Minister of Education (School Boards) Noel Burke and Université de Quebec à Montreal Professor, Paul Bélanger. EMSB Director General, Charley E.E. Levy, and Lester B. Pearson School Board Assistant Director General, Bob Mills, gave opening remarks.
The organizing committee was led by the EMSB team of Cosmo Della Rocca, Lori Rabinovitch, Daniela Borzacchini, Bruno Bourcier, Sandra Grief, Patricia Melnyk, and Tina Capobianco, and the Ministry of Education’s Sam Boskey and Walter Duszara. Rosario Ortona of the English Montreal School Board and Viviane Croubalian of the Lester B. Pearson School Board supported their respective school boards throughout this endeavor.
Michael J. Cohen