Are we learning less?

Red Deer’s score on learning trends has nosedived from last year, but remains well above the national average.

Red Deer’s score on learning trends has nosedived from last year, but remains well above the national average.

The Canadian Council on Learning released its annual Community Learning Index report on Thursday, generating scores for nearly 5,000 communities across Canada. The national score has fallen from 77 to 75 for 2009, while Red Deer’s score dropped from 93 to 82.

But there’s a disclaimer. The data used to compile the scores were gathered last year, before the economy hit the skids.

That’s a key factor in considering the message behind the numbers, said Cyndy Lorincz, associate vice-president of student services at Red Deer College.

Interest in education declines when people are working and increases when jobs are scarce, said Lorincz. As people lose their jobs, they become more interested in upgrading their skills and they also look for courses and assistance in debt management and career planning, she said.

Most valuable from the college perspective is the way the CLI shows trends from generation to generation, including population information.

Information on the types of students attending high school in the region and the types of courses that will draw them into a post-secondary education becomes part of the discussion when the college is laying out its learning plans, said Lorincz.

Based mainly on data collected by Statistics Canada, the scoring system measures a community’s learning opportunities and the level those opportunities are used on a variety of different parameters, said Jarrett Laughlin, senior research analyst with the Ottawa-based council.

Scores include access to formal education, time spent reading, participation in cultural volunteer activities and the amount of time people spend watching sports, going to museums or attending live theatre.

For example, 14.4 per cent of Red Deer residents entered university in the 2009 report, compared with 19 per cent in each of the previous two years.

At the same time, the number of people getting training on the job rose from 30 per cent in the 2007 report to 37.2 per cent in 2008 and 39.2 per cent in the new report.

At some point, the Learning Council would like to be able to compare Canada’s composite learning index with other countries, said Laughlin.

But no other country has adopted a similar program, although Germany is using Canada as a model to develop a CLI for the European Union.

Details, including scores for most communities in the Red Deer region, are available online at www.ccl-cca.ca/cli

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com

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