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Canadian Council On Learning: Composite Learning Index

The Canadian Council on Learning has released a Composite Learning Index [CLI]. The goal of the index is to "draw attention to lifelong learning in a way that is informative, accessible and stimulates ongoing discussion." The purpose of the index is to "measure the conditions favourable to learning in Canada and demonstrate changes or differences in the state of learning over time and across regions." The underlying intent is to measure specific qualities of learning environments in order to encourage those that support economic competitiveness in a global economy...

CLI: Purpose

An index is a measurement tool used to analyze various kinds of indicators against a stated benchmark. Stock market indices are one of the more familiar applications of an index. The use of an index assumes that what ever is being measured can be meaningfully expressed in numerical terms. For example, a stock that drops 10% in a single day of trading would have clear meaning for investors. As an indicator of performance it does not tell the whole story; it alerts our attention to something that may require further investigation. The fact that a stock drops 10% in a day might be a signal to sell or for the more sophisticated investor an opportunity to buy. So an indicator is not the story itself, but a marker so to speak - a point of departure.

The Composite Learning Index claims to:

The Canadian Council on Learning is developing a Composite Learning Index (CLI) that will be used to track the state of learning in Canada; the first report will be released in spring 2006. The purpose of the index is to inform policy makers and the public of the progress of learning in Canada, and to stimulate discussion on what can be done to improve the quality of learning across all age groups.
- Developing The Composite Index: A Framework

Of course, for those of us that have a broader understanding of learning such a claim is shallow, that is, to believe that an index can in fact measure something called the state of learning in Canada is, in broad terms, a delusion. However, this is a common use of the word learning within the confines of government policy and economic progress. It may be that to some degree the index can inform policy makers on the "progress" of learning and to stimulate discussion on how to improve it. The fundamental problem here is that the nature of learning is limited to ideas about government policy and economic progress. The bottom line in this message is that learning is economic progress and a preservation of something called global competitiveness. It is not surprising that the key focus on learning is once again lifelong learning.

While it is impossible for the CLI to "track the state of learning" in Canada, the index may alert our attention and invite further investigation.

CLI: The Four Pillars of Learning

The foundation for the CLI originates in Jacques Delors work with four pillars of learning. I became quite familiar with Delors work, as well as UNESCO's efforts in education, while developing the Connected Intelligence Program for the Government of Portugal. In fact, we co-designed a program for Digital Culture with UNESCO that was used in the various projects. A detailed description of the four pillars can be found in Delors well known book Learning: The Treasure Within. The four pillars are:

1. Learning To Know 2. Learning To Do 3. Learning To Live Together 4. Learning To Be
- The Four Pillars Of Education

As benchmarks, the four pillars seem useful enough. However, how they get implemented is the more significant issue. As we know, words and the reality they intend to describe can be close together or extremely far apart. The CLI uses the four pillars as the basis for the development of its learning indicators.

In addition to the four pillars, three theoretical frameworks are used to support the development of the CLI:

The Delors commission explored the broad question of what kind of education is required for the society of tomorrow and identified four pillars of learning: Learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together, and learning to be. Schuller and his colleagues have documented a variety of quantitative and qualitative studies to explain how various forms of learning impact people’s lives. They think of learning as a process whereby people build up their assets in the shape of human, social and identity capital. The DeSeCo project defined three categories of key competencies required for a successful life and a well-functioning society: interacting in socially heterogeneous groups, acting autonomously, and using tools interactively. Ministries of education across Canada routinely define the purposes of schooling as including intellectual development, social and personal development, good citizenship, and preparation for the workplace.
- Developing The Composite Index: A Framework

CLI: The Learning Indicators

The twelve indicators are not currently listed, but we can get a flavour of them here:

The CLI is mathematical combination of indicators. This aggregation includes traditional learning outcome indicators, such as reading and mathematics skills. It also includes indicators such as access to childcare and workplace training as well as participation in sports and cultural and artistic activities. Each indicator is assigned a weight when it is combined with other indicators to form the composite learning index.
- Developing The Composite Index: A Framework

In other words, we can track learning in much the same way we track the stock market. What is interesting to consider about the CLI is that everyone doing the learning that is measured becomes anonymous. Individual experiences remain hidden in preference for general statistics and trends. However, this is not surprising since the impetus for the index originates in ideas about economy not humanity.

The CLI is not due to be released until May 2006. You can subscribe to the CLI weblog by clicking on CLI Insight.

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