In a pilot project coming this fall, the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) is inviting several post-secondary institutes to submit their incoming and graduating students to a 90-minute online test on three staples of education — reading, writing, and arithmetic. </p>
Although the test will not be required for admission into post-secondary institutions or to graduate, it is being implemented due to the concern expressed by employers that students are lacking so-called “essential-skills” — communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, and teamwork.
Employers are finding that graduates know their respective fields of study, but are unable to express ideas and work with a team to solve problems beyond what they have learned in the classroom. A 2015 study, Youth in transition: Bridging Canada’s path from education to employment, revealed that 83 per cent of educational institutions believed that students were prepared for the workforce, whereas only 44 per cent of youth, and a mere 34 per cent of employers believed this to be the case.
Implementing the entrance and exit tests would create measures to quantify students’ development of these skills and determine whether post-secondary institutes are adequately preparing the students for the workforce.
“Universities and colleges boast that their grads are great thinkers, great researchers, but I know a lot of people who think that’s not true. And I know a lot of people who think it is true. I don’t actually know what’s true, but I do know how to find out, and that’s to measure,” said Harvey Weingarten in an interview with the Toronto Star, president and CEO of HEQCO.
HEQCO plans to administer an existing survey linked to the measurement of adult’s basic skills conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development at a global level. The pilot project is intended to gauge student buy-in.
The question for UW students is: should this test be a concern for them?
When asked about the university’s participation in the project and if institutes would be able to opt-out, Feds VP of education Stephane Hamade said, “No, Waterloo won’t be participating in the pilot. HEQCO has issued invitations to participate, so participating is entirely voluntary and in fact ‘opt-in.’
“This [test] is university entry and university exit, so I would imagine for first years they would do this pretty close to when they begin university, well before their first semester of exams,” said Hamade. “Then they’ll administer the exit [tests] in the fourth/final year of study. Again, this is only a pilot project and will take at minimum four years to complete. We don’t know what will happen after that.”