"Canadian universities must reform or perish" – Globe and Mail

Paul Romani

Paul Romani examines the Globe and Mail’s article about the need for reform

The Globe and Mail states (11th October, 2011) that “Canadian universities must reform or perish”.
Strong words, but true. In fact, their views reconfirm the research that Pear Tree Education has been doing.
Here are the highlights of the Globe’s article, followed by our Feedback.

“Classes and course of study… prize academic disciplines rather than make the connections among disciplines that are so crucial to learning.”

The G&M is highlighting an important flaw in university education in Canada – that courses and disciplines are disconnected. This is the total opposite of real life and the world of work!
Imagine studying for 1 semester about environmental science, but then not being able to study any other related course about the environment – especially not one of a different discipline.
No-one really understands anything unless all fields of knowledge are brought together.
Besides, the lack of consistency of topic makes it almost certain that students will immediately forget everything that have just been studying.
Fortunately for students at Pear Tree’s learning centre, integrated subjects are implemented throughout our classes. This means that our students are always connecting disciplines, and are always learning. By having such an in-depth knowledge of a topic, they are more likely to understand and remember what they have studied.

“Not enough [students] are leaving school with the skills they need for success in the real world.”

Absolutely true! It’s not only the G&M that reports this:


“An undergraduate education… ought to produce critical thinkers, scientifically and culturally literate people who can assess evidence, connect the dots and communicate with clarity – the key skills, that, in a fast-changing economy, prepare people for the jobs that haven’t been invented yet.”

There are two observations here:

  1. The need for a well-rounded education
  2. The need for everyone to be able to adapt to present and future careers.

The education that Pear Tree provides does exactly this. 

“We don’t actually measure of dock those universities whose graduates don’t measure up.”

This issue doesn’t just apply to university, but also to career colleges and trade schools. Young people get their education from various different institutions. Wherever this may be, each and every individual must be able to contribute well to the economy.

“If you can’t explain it, you shouldn’t be able to teach it.”

The G&M criticizes the lack of teaching training that university professors have in Canada. It’s certainly true that professors are often painfully bad at communicating effectively to their young audience. Perhaps the only reason that university education has any effectiveness at all is due to the desire of students to learn based on their ambitions and/or the amount of money courses cost.
Teaching ability doesn’t just apply to universities, however. Schools often lack highly-qualified teachers (master’s degrees and above), despite any training they may have.
At Pear Tree, all of our teachers are both highly qualified and well trained.

“Dumping information from a professor’s head onto a student’s notebook isn’t education.”

Right. Teacher-centred learning doesn’t work. We learn by doing. Unless students are actively involved with the education process, they will not truly understand or remember anything they are studying. What a waste of a $20K education!
At Pear Tree, our classes are student centred. This means that our students are always doing the learning.