Monday, December 21, 2009

Unsettling news on higher education in Quebec

Via Inside Higher Ed, a Globe and Mail poll revealed significant gaps between francophone and anglophone Canadians on the value of higher education:
Canada's two solitudes endure in the value placed on higher education, with English-speaking young adults twice as likely as their francophone peers to see a university degree as the key to success, according to a new national poll.

The poll, conducted last month for the group by Leger Marketing and released exclusively to The Globe and Mail, asked 1,500 Canadians in all parts of the country if they thought a university degree was now a minimum requirement for success. What it found was a wide gap in views when the respondents' first language was taken into account - a gap that only increased when results of the youngest of those surveyed were broken out.

Fewer than 20 per cent of 18- to 24-year-old French speakers said a university degree was required, compared with 40 per cent of the English group. That difference increased even more when compared with those whose first language is neither English or French - generally first- or second-generation Canadians. More than two-thirds of young people in this group agreed a degree is needed to be successful, a result that is in keeping with the high percentage of new Canadians who go on to higher education.


Anonymous said...

Why the panic? It's a short and rather silly question, anyway. Perhaps there is a cultural explanation about the meaning of 'success'.

How do you define success? If the question had been phrased more carefully, to actually include the cultural assumption embedded within it (i.e. is a degree the minimum requirement for a high income?) then the results may have been different.

This 'expert' is quoted as saying "There is something out there that is giving the message that a university degree isn't necessarily going to translate into success."

Well, indeed, that 'something' might be reality. It most certainly is not.

As for higher incomes, perhaps a more realistic assessment is that a trade is more profitable than an average undergrad degree. That is probably accurate. Perhaps plumbing pays more than a run of the mill office job. Or teaching. Or nursing.

If the (unscientific) poll question was whether a university education was valuable in and of itself, you might find that the same people who thought it was not essential to success, also valued it.

It's a silly poll, no need to panic. Just saying.

Matt said...

Interesting. Do you have any idea what the underlying dynamic is? (I agree with anonymous that the article was unclear and annoying in many ways, especially in that there's a big difference between "a university degree is necessary for success" and "a university degree will necessarily translate into success". The second is obviously false, even more so than the first, but if Francophone youth thought a weaker version of the later and so didn't go to college this would be the more interesting, and perhaps troubling, case, I think.

Will Roberts said...

If they're polling 18-24 year olds, then presumably these are people who already know whether they're going to university or not -- because they're already in or have graduated from university. So I'd like to see a comparison of these attitudes once university enrollment is taken into account. Are young francophones who are in university as likely to downplay the importance of a university degree as those who are not? Etc.

I'm curious because I waould want to know to what extent attitudes are simply following practices. I would not be surprised if university students/grads think a degree is very important, while those who are not going to university think it is less important -- each group thinking positive thoughts about its own path.

Sam said...

Are there implications for Quebec or for Francophones? The article doesn't state what the responses of English-speaking Quebecers were.

This leads me to concur with Michel Perron, quoted in the article as attributing part of this result to the difference in the Quebec education system. CEGEP is the logical next step for most high school students, and technical programs enroll more students than pre-university programs.

There's also been a significant push for both technical programs and vocational programs (trade schools) in the last few years. I know I received a lot of that information in high school.