Authors: Janet Lane & Naomi Christensen

Canada’s education systems are joining the global movement towards a shift from standard knowledge-based credentials to demonstrated competencies – what people know, can do and understand. Credentials based on competencies provide individuals with assurance that they can actually do the jobs they are applying for, and are transforming the way employers hire and promote employees.

To inform its work with third-sector agencies that offer youth-focused, capacity-building initiatives, The Counselling Foundation of Canada asked the Canada West Foundation to determine whether K-12 school systems in Canada have moved towards adopting competency-based learning approaches. The investigation also examined whether or not any of the competency frameworks in use, being implemented or targeted for implementation, employ relatively similar approaches and terminology.

Not surprisingly, in a country with 13 similar yet distinctly different K-12 systems, the answers are yes, and no. A scan of Canada’s education systems shows that:

> provinces and territories are moving towards a competency-based approach to teaching, learning and assessment;

> they are moving at different paces, using different language and with different levels of commitment but the competencies are not different;

> some jurisdictions are incorporating competencies across the curriculum, while others are only using the concepts in their career education program; and

> the largest difference is in the commitment to, and speed at which they adopt assessment based on competencies.

Canada’s youth are becoming aware of the importance of building competencies for success in life and work. Agencies working with youth can include competency awareness in their programs without being in conflict with what is going on in schools. What is more, such a move will cement and advance the work of most school jurisdictions by promoting the understanding of career competencies. The expected result is young Canadians who better appreciate the relevance of education and are better equipped to navigate the complex career pathways of the 21st century