Royal Commission on Learning Report: Short Version

Royal Commission on Learning

The purpose of schooling

At the beginning of this section, we asked what we're entitled to expect from our schools. The first answer is that schools can't do everything, and certainly teachers can't do everything. On the contrary, they must do mainly what they are better equipped to do than any other part of our society, and leave others to do what they can best contribute. A second answer would be that schools must be part of a new, co-ordinated societal effort to raise our children with love, care, wisdom, responsibility, and a sense of justice.

It follows, then, that the primary purpose of schooling is not to train students for a particular job, or to turn out a product, or to make Ontario more competitive in a globalized economy, or to compensate for a broken family, or to instill worthy values that others have neglected. On the contrary, there is one thing above all that teachers are singularly equipped for. First and foremost, their purpose must be to ensure for all students whatever their future jobs or careers - high levels of what we've chosen to call literacies: building on basic reading, writing, and problem-solving skills to ever-increasing stages as well as ever-deepening degrees of understanding across a variety of subject areas. We believe, in no uncertain terms, that almost all students have the capacity to complete secondary school with a great deal more academic excellence, more rigorous analytic capacity, more genuine intellectual understanding, more power of thinking, reasoning, problem-solving, than is now generally the case.

If this goal is realized, we'll find ourselves with a generation of citizens who have learned how to learn - an attribute that just about everyone believes is necessary - and who may even have developed a love of learning. It should be the purpose of every human being involved in the learning process to create such a love of learning in every student he she or he works with. Of course we know perfectly well that this is easier said than done, but it is possible. It seems obvious to us that a love of learning will go far to motivate citizens to become life-long learners.

We also believe that along with these objectives, schools should help prepare students to become responsible citizens, to move from adolescence to adulthood, and from schooling to employment. The publicly funded education system has four components English and French public, and English and French Catholic - and we recognize that each of them encourages the development of those values that are inherent in their respective heritage and tradition. But we remain convinced that every school must promote the development of basic moral values, such as a sense of caring and compassion, respect for the human person and anti-racism, a commitment to peace and non-violence, honesty, and justice. We don't dispute that it's the home that is most often the primary determinant of values. Finally, however, as we insist throughout this report, it's the mutually reinforcing efforts of home and school that we promote as the way for optimal development both in the academic area and in the realm of values.

But if, as we stress, the primary responsibilities of teachers are the academic and intellectual growth of their students, schools themselves must be able to deal constructively with the many difficult non-academic needs and problems that our kids seem to be facing more and more. This issue will not disappear, and there's no point in pretending we can simply continue to add new responsibilities to already overburdened teachers. Not only can these kids not learn properly without serious assistance, but unless assisted we can count on them making learning more difficult for all other students. The community must become a partner with schools in creating a capacity to handle this problem; you'll find that we come back to this issue many times in the pages to come.

If we agree that schools are not adequately fulfilling these purposes, how must they change?

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