Impact of Globalization in Vocational Educational Reforms in Ontario, Canada

Essay, 2015

17 Pages, Grade: A




Background to the Educational System and Policies

Background History of the Global Economy in Canada

1968 to 1983: The Culmination of the Welfare State and the Impact on Education Reforms

1984 to 1993: The influence of Thatcher and Reagan on the Mulroney Government in Canada and the global educational reforms

1993 to 2003: Jean Chretien’s impact on the Global Economy and Educational Reforms

The Decline of the Keynesian Welfare state and The Rise of Neoliberalism and Global Capitalism

The Decline of the Keynesian Welfare State and the Rise of the Neoliberal Global Nation with the Views on Vocational Education



Impact of Globalization in Vocational Educational Reforms in Canada.


The focus of this essay is to establish the impact that globalization has had in vocational educational reforms in Canada, during three decades; 1970 to 2003. We will review background information in relation to the diverse educational system, its policies and how it is executed in Canada in general as well as further background history into the global economy within the vast geographical and globally integrated nation. The decline of the Keynesian welfare state and the rise of neo-liberal beginnings of the global economy in Canada will be examined with the intention of understanding why it had occurred. We will address the fact that both the UK and the US have had some influence on the global direction and vocational education policies in Canada. Through linking the strategic relationships within the different time periods of the global economy we can examine the effects on vocational educational reforms and their outcomes within that period of time.

Background to the Educational System and Policies

The educational policies in Canada are diverse in comparison with other OECD countries. Canada appropriates the decision-making responsibilities on a provincial level and not a federal level, it does not have a specific federal office of education. On the provincial level each province structures their own policies towards education, promoting primarily the development of skills necessary in their community and includes a degree of financial support through the federal, provincial and municipal levels. Section 91 of the Constitution Act, 1867 the federal government had gained jurisdiction over national defence, Indian affairs, the territories, prisons, external affairs and the economy. “There are certain educational responsibilities that arise such as the education of service personnel and children of members of the armed forces; the education and training of prison inmates; and the education of Registered Indians”(Morgan, 2011, p.128). In general Canada upholds a high quality educational system however it still requires improvement. Canada lacked child care policies, which resulted in difficulties for single parent families obtaining any employment, as well as targeting fair and just educational policies for the Aboriginal natives. The government has always tried to convince the public that extra money for educational reforms was not available, nor was it necessary. However, through history we have seen that large amounts of money have always been applied to new educational policies (Young and Levin 1999).

Recently particular changes have occurred in provincial control i.e. financing has been severely cut back and yet at the same time the control over many educational institutions have increased as well as an escalation in the centralization of the educational structures, although there are many interprovincial variations to the structures of these educational policies. Each provincial government sanctions the teaching resources and materials as well as ascertains teachers’ qualifications. The secondary level, consists of Grades 9 through 13 until recently in Ontario, Grade 13 has been eradicated and brought to a unified standard with the other provinces except for Quebec whose final year ends at Grade 11 (Leslie & Peters, 2012).

Background History of the Global Economy in Canada

Canadian Globalization began centuries ago and became known as a global village, where the early inhabitants embraced and welcomed the European societies, combining Aboriginal natives, Francophone and Anglophone cultures.

In the 21st century, Canada has become the most globally integrated nation, whose government participates in international organizations and where the society is made up of a mixed cultural population which travels frequently abroad. For many decades the borders have been open to migrants, promoting new lifestyles and more work opportunities prior to the modern terminology of globalization. Throughout the 1980’s globalization became an appealing ideology for Canadians who were a cosmopolitan nation (Pfrimmer, 2002). For decades Canadian economists’ beliefs in the globalized world was that of an ideal theory for a borderless world and was synonymous to a capitalistic and free trading world market. This assumption of a borderless world was far from reality, where in fact there were very real boundaries (Kilgore, 2000).

Technology has played a crucial role for Canadians and has linked the large geographical nation together. The benefits through technology has revolutionized the speed and progress of the economy as well as in the areas of health care and education, providing vast opportunities for a variety of people (Lluberes, 2014). Knowledge is a competitive commodity and it is in the interest of the Canadian global economy to protect it. The main subjects being; English, maths, sciences and technology are central for educational reforms. Alternatively, some authors argue that our mutually dependent global responsibilities and requirements should be our primary guide for the educational objectives and reforms. This has been subject to debate in the last thirty years between the two ideologies of interdependence and competitiveness in the global economy (O’Sullivan, 1999).

During the 1970’s the Labour government under Trudeau’s leadership tried to curtail the dependence of the Canadian market with the US and diversify to become a more globally effective economy however other countries had practically no interest in trading with the Canadians. Thus from the early 1970’s to late 1980’s Canada had little choice and traded mainly with its geographical neighbour - the US, through the Canada-Us Free Trade Agreement (CUSFTA, 1989), also included Mexico and became the largest bilateral trading economy in the world (Azzi, 2014). Although, in the 1980’s, Mulroney had signed Canada’s rights away in the Free Trade Agreement, for the management of the natural resources to very large multinational organizations mainly being American, allowing these organizations to control the regional communities and thus the economy was on a downhill slope because of this agreement (Stanford, 2014).

As Eglin (2013) argued, that since World War 2 (WW2), the US planned to organize a world order “to see the persuasiveness of propaganda supplied by intellectuals to justify both the order and the consequent atrocities its construction and maintenance afforded”. In addition the author adds, that he has similar beliefs towards the British through their exploitation of resources in India, resulting in the destitution of a flourishing nation in 18th and 19th century. He was reluctant to believe that Britain was just as ruthless as the US.

Helliwell (2000) believes the major problem with Canada becoming a more globalized economy primarily was the distance between the international markets and the costs, thus traders considered it more effective in buying, selling or investing nationally.

Although Hoong (2014) affirms that between the years 2002 and 2012 there had been a further degree of transformation in the movement toward a more globalized market in Canada, with other global partners, particularly with Asia and trading between the US had diminished by 12.6 percent whilst trade with Asia had doubled during this time span.

1968 to 1983: The Culmination of the Welfare State and the Impact on Education Reforms

Trudeau, a popular Liberal leader in Canada had liberalized many reforms, such as; abortion, divorce, gay rights and announced his multiculturalism policy resulting in Canada becoming a bilingual and bicultural country as opposed to Canada being a country of two nations. Trudeau tried curbing inflation rates in the 1970’s through various tax cuts, however inflation was still rising. Canada’s profile increased internationally and became part of the G-7; a major economic supremacy. Canada had become truly a welfare state, where there were provisions and reforms for unemployment, old age pensions, child tax credits, sickness and disabilities (Historica Canada, 2014). However the decline of the Keynesian welfare state became apparent by the end of the 1970’s through a variety of downfalls i.e. the economy was going through a grave recession, widespread inflation, appalling unemployment rates as well as soaring interest rates.

The Hall-Dennis Report (1968) had been released at the start of this troubled time, which laid the grounds for vocational objectives and goals, as well as the foundations of neo-liberal and global rational in Canada i.e. “the right of every individual to have equal access to the learning experience best suited to his/her needs and the responsibility of every school authority to provide a child centred learning continuum that invites learning by individual discovery and inquiry” these changes became known as “back to basics” which ensured the power of employability. During this period through the latter part of the 1970’s high school students’ credits were expected to have achieved six in 1974 rising up to sixteen by 1984. The guidelines were revised and the content became more practical as well as dogmatic. (O’Sullivan, 1999 & Zegarac, 2008, p. 7).

The welfare state just wasn’t working any longer thus new ideologies were brought in known as neoliberalism, it was the only way forward to improve the economy through equal opportunities, social fairness (inclusively of the migrant population and the aboriginal natives) as well as bringing in new educational reforms which would have a positive impact on the economy with its democratic values. Education is an important factor in the global economy, and was now becoming a competitive commodity. The new approach was to create an alternative to the traditional secondary school; a new diverse vocational curriculum was added to increase student interest and attendance whilst decreasing drop out and unemployment rates. Thus metaphorically the neoliberal movement was the way forward to improve the economy, social well-being and improve educational direction, giving a wider freedom of choice and a positive perspective, providing more confidence for the future i.e. training, employment and a better life. The neoliberal direction became the direction for education and who regulates the curriculum for the good of all (Werlhoff, 2013). Hyslop-Margison (2006) maintains that the governments’ role in education within neoliberalism was to create ideal settings and conditions for the global economic market in a social manner which was completely committed to the validity of the economic market.

During the decline of the Keynesian welfare state, the government decided it was imperative to persuade students to continue their education in the secondary level. Ottawa had encouraged the provincial governments to implement vocational programs which they had approved of to promote and share three quarters of the costs with the provincial governments, however the effects of the economy did not allow this and the federal funds were withdrawn thus the provincial governments had to fund the complete costs of these programs. Consequently problems were arising as a result of the rise of globalization and the neoliberal approaches (Lyons et al 1991). The author argues that Canada was lagging behind Europe’s improved economy in this decade. Lyons et al claims that Canada had not made training a priority for skilled workers, thus the nation had to catch-up to the other competitive countries like West Germany and Japan. Now the National Training Act (1982) had replaced the previous Adult Occupational Act which held an increased governmental control. The aims were to target particular professions and meet the expected needs of the employer. Canada Manpower Training Programme (CMTP) financed a variety of training programmes such as apprenticeships, on the job training and specialized courses purchased from the provinces’ public institutes. According to Lyons et al there were several reasons why these training programmes through the CMTP were important; on account of the difficulties with the previous training of on-the-job projects, through the inexperienced staff in many organizations, operational difficulties and the misappropriation of government funding for the specific training projects. This seemed the answer to unemployment and the economic instability; the creation of new employment opportunities. Although these training programmes were not satisfying the economic growth demands due to these affirmations, it was decided that the emphasis would be related more towards work force opportunities as opposed to simply measuring against the unemployment rates. The Skills Growth Fund (Employment and immigration, 1982) was prepared with the aim of centralizing specific vocational education throughout all of the provinces (Lyons et al 1991).

1984 to 1993: The influence of Thatcher and Reagan on the Mulroney Government in Canada and the global educational reforms.

The Thatcher, Reagan and Mulroney years, had profound effects on the transformation of the economies and their policies within the three most powerful nations of the world during the 1980’s. All three conservative parties were victorious in the polls, during a period of time when there was discontent in all three nations i.e. England , known as the ; the winter of discontent, where upheavals were with the labour unions, strikes, declining standards of living, governments inaptitude to spending money and in general the rejection of socialism. In the US, (the Democratic party which became the socialist party) Carter could not regain the public’s confidence in his second year and it was referred to as “the referendum on Carter”. He was criticised for the high inflation rates, and responsible for the anger of the people in regards to the captured “American hostages in Iran” (Savoie, 1994, p.89). Canada was now looking for a new direction, the nation was in disarray and on a downward slope through the final years of Trudeau’s leadership and its consequences.

All three conservative leaders were convinced that the bureaucracy of the previous public administrations, were responsible for the economic despair within their countries. Thus came the era of “Thatcherism, Reaganomics, The New Right and Neo-conservatism” (Savoie, 1994, p. 90). All three leaders regarded public service as the problem; Thatcher detested civil servants, Reagan deplored that the civil service which needed to be downsized and believed that the bureaucracy and downfall of the nation was due to the extensive size of the federal government, he believed the government was the problem. Mulroney held a lot of contempt for public service and promised the nation he would be “thrifty and frugal with the taxpayers’ money and eliminate the deficit by 1990” (Savoie, 1994, P.91).

Thatcher now in power, had the right to demolish the “established order”. Her motto became simplification and efficiency. Reagan believed that the government role should be reversed to the servant as opposed to being the master. Mulroney’s dislike towards the bureaucrats gave him cause to eliminate and consolidate the government office of the no-goods and the do-no-goods for a higher quality government. All three government offices contained too much bureaucracy and too many bureaucrats (Savoie, 1994, p.91).

Once Mulroney was in power, he had declared a variety of budget cuts and improvements of the existent programs and its management. All three sectors were ready to tackle the overly expanded state role. Thus the new governments were involved in quickly scrapping or modifying existing programs and policies. Savoie (1994) claimed that public service was the knowledge which the new governments lacked, in all three sectors. Reagan’s leadership followed that of Thatcher’s although in a different style while Mulroney’s next steps consisted of following through with what both Thatcher and Reagan had done within their constituencies. Mulroney wanted the people to be involved in the decisions and policy making in the country.

All three leaders brought in the private sector perspectives, a shift in ideology and policies which is known as neoliberal-conservatism for their nations; private sector business executives were to be brought into the governments however Canada adhered to both the private sector and the public sector combined. Throughout the 1980’s privatization schemes were introduced as the key to a new governmental approach and concept for the public sector where state owned organizations were privatized. The Free-Trade Agreement caused even more inflation and unemployment because of sales taxes which became higher and income taxes became lower. The higher level of interest rates and the reshuffling of the taxes had caused a great government deficit and the only solutions were; cutbacks especially with state programs e.g. education and healthcare. Hyslop-Margison and Sears (2006) argue that the public were basically sold on the ideology that the prosperity of the economy relied on the set conditions which in fact have caused a decline in employment and a downward slope on the salaries of workers in manufacturing industries. Young (1990) also argues that neoliberalism has deplorably fallen short of the economic promise decreasing the governments’ power into a fundamental political disaster, a hopelessness and has failed with its obligations to protect the nation’s public from global capitalism (Hyslop-Margison & Sears, 2006).

Both the Uk and US had executed these cutbacks on a high scale, although Mulroney’s ideology was very similar with the two countries, he had not instigated many cutbacks with the state programs as were prescribed and the Canadian deficit rose to 100 million dollars per day, not exactly what Mulroney had proposed. Mulroney had further problems with the unity of Canada and had to tread carefully not alienating Quebec by imposing these measures as the Quebecois were totally opposed to these measures (Savoie, 1994).

According to Savoie (1994) Mulroney instigated his own version of the make-or-buy policy for the new neoliberal direction of privatization; subsequent to both Reagan’s and Thatcher’s augmentations. The structure was to support the ideology of “an entrepreneurial, innovative, cost-conscious public service which is accountable for results” (Savoie, 1994, p.155). This was meant to produce the most cost effective management of delivering services or employing alternative suppliers as well as the use of contracting. However the make-or-buy policy had very little impact in the Mulroney government as opposed to Thatcher’s right-to-buy policy and Reagan’s contracting-out-policy (which were quite successful) and it was quietly put to sleep, (various issues were never discussed).

The effects these global developments on the educational trends and their reform policies, in Canada were referred to as “Competing in the New Global Economy, 1988” in the UK “Education Reform Act, 1988” and the US “America 2000, Goals 2000” (O’Sullivan, 1995. p.314). These policies were sanctioned for the purpose of reforming the structure of the global market. Due to the demands of various new corporations i.e. in technology, medicine and electronics, there became a necessity for a further knowledge-intensive skilled workforce, thus additional educational reforms had to be applied. These programs were funded for specific training within the organizations where there were shortages in skilled workers whilst there was less funding for vocational training with the pretence of acquiring a job (Lyons et al 1991). According to the author the most imperative strategy to be exercised was to enhance and develop collaborative support between industries, the government and the certification of the provincial labourer with aims of increasing workers’ flexibility for economic growth. Thus the Canada Employment and Immigration referred to as the Canadian Job Strategy (CJS) became the new policy in vocational (occupational) training. These strategies were listed through various aims and goals for subsidizing skilled worker training as well as worker experience in particular vocational courses. The declarations were mainly in regards to the importance of job training and creation, highlighting free enterprise and small businesses. However vocational training suffered financial cuts whilst funding for apprenticeships and particular occupational training had increased, where there were skilled shortages or anticipated skill shortages (Lyons et al 1991). According to Dirk (2006) the government had introduced new policies and programs during this period, encouraging migrant entrepreneurs along with their assets and expertise to promote and develop new occupational prospects thus creating additional jobs and opportunities.


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Impact of Globalization in Vocational Educational Reforms in Ontario, Canada
University of Huddersfield
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impact, globalization, vocational, educational, reforms, ontario, canada
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Donya Ernst (Author), 2015, Impact of Globalization in Vocational Educational Reforms in Ontario, Canada, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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