Chapter Two: The Structure of Canadian Schooling
In addition to those areas directly responsible for the delivery of educational services, the federal government plays a role in representing what it sees as the national interest in the provincial educational arena. Such initiatives have taken many forms, but the common element is the provision of federal funds in their support. During the 1970s and 1980s, the Canada Studies Program, administered by the Department of the Secretary of State, represented such an initiative. In response to concerns expressed about students’ ignorance of their own country, this program saw considerable resources allocated to the production and implementation of elementary and high-school curriculum materials. Similarly, the Secretary of State continues to provide the Official Languages in Education Program, which is directed toward educating official minority language students in their mother tongue and toward promoting bilingualism. In this program, the federal government enters into bilateral agreements with the various provinces to provide money in support of minority language programs, including immersion ones. Federal funds have played a major role in expanding immersion and protecting other minority language education opportunities.
Vocational and technical training is another area in which the federal government has a long history of collaboration and conflict with the provinces. Federal activity in this area, justified by the federal government’s responsibility for national economic development, began in the first decades of the twentieth century. In the 1960s, the federal government provided, through the Technical and Vocational Assistance Act (1960), funds for building technical and vocational high schools and departments in existing high schools. The federal government’s concern with producing a better-trained Canadian labour force continued into the 1980s and 1990s. Its 1990 Stay-in-School initiative was designed to combat high-school dropout rates. In announcing this program, the government press release noted that, “while education is a provincial responsibility, it is one of the federal government’s main responsibilities to establish national labour market policies and programs …. Ensuring that young people are prepared for the transition from school to the workforce is a shared responsibility” (Canada, 1990). A recent federal initiative has been to support schools across the country accessing the Internet through the development of SchoolNet <www.schoolnet.ca>.