Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to this motion with great pleasure because I have been very privileged to have received an education and also to have worked in the education field all of my life to this stage, some 31 years.
I taught high school for four years. It is illustrative to what the hon. member is saying when we talk about the portability of credentials to tell members about an occurrence when I first started my teaching career.
The hon. member for Saskatoon across the way will appreciate the fact that I am a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. When I first graduated from that illustrious institution and tried to get a job in my home province, because I had a high degree of loyalty, unfortunately most of the school boards in that province thought I was over qualified since I had two degrees. I was very young and inexperienced. They said they could get a teacher with some experience and less training for less money. I was not able to get a job, but they hired me in Alberta.
It was very interesting. I went to a rural county in Alberta. I applied for a job in writing. The superintendent phoned and asked me whether I could come and work. He offered me a job. I sad: "Ho, you have not interviewed me. You have not seen my credentials". He said something that is very fitting to this debate: "We have hired a great number of teachers from
Saskatchewan and we have not yet regretted one of them". We could all applaud that for the University of Saskatchewan.
There are differences in credentials accruing to the place at which one got an education. The University of Saskatchewan built a reputation in western Canada that teachers trained in the faculty of education-it was called the College of Education at that time-were well trained and were able to compete.
Hon. members are going to have to think very carefully when I state this statistic because it is a catchy one. One of the people who was from Saskatchewan who taught in that rural county in southern Alberta said that the worst teachers from Saskatchewan go to Alberta and the teaching standards in both provinces rise. If one knows statistics they will get the significance of that statement.
I would like to also relate the fact that I taught at a post-secondary technical institute for 27 years. Here I have a point that is very important. We need to hear this. It is a waste of financial resources to try to train people who are not ready, who do not have the prerequisites. I believe it is very important as our students go all the way from kindergarten through grade 12 that at each level there be a good degree of quality control and that they be passed on to the next grade only when they have achieved a certain standard.
Teaching in a post-secondary institute for 27 years, I have experienced receiving there many students, some of whom were really sharp, whiz kids with good intelligence and good prior education. They did very well. Some of those students however were not as intelligent. They did not have the same mental capacity. There is nothing wrong with that. It is the same when I run in a race. I am at the tail end of the race, physically speaking. Mentally there is also a variation.
I am proud to say that many students who were of average intelligence in the post-secondary institute where I worked did very well because they were able to compensate for that by good, solid, hard work. They did very well. They graduated, some of them with high marks, and they went on and chose their careers.
A number of my students passed me in earnings. A number of my students have already retired. They earned so much money they could afford to do that due to the training that they got. Not all of them were exceptional students. They were just hard workers.
I want to come to this point of international education. I also experienced on a number of occasions foreign students. We had a number of students from foreign countries who excelled just the same as we had students from Alberta, from other provinces in Canada, some from the United States and many from other foreign countries.
We had them on the whole spectrum. Some were really good students. They breezed through the work. Some were average and there were some with difficulty. I am thinking of one young man from a foreign country who came to us. Our prerequisites in the programs I taught in required a grade 12 when they came in. That is from Alberta standards. I do not know how that compares with grade 13 here but it is probably comparable to grade 12.
This poor student-I liked him-did not have the prerequisites. Somehow he got into this country on the credentials of his government. He enrolled in our institute and consistently got zero in his exams. It just tore me apart but I could not begin to give him marks because I was training a person who was going to work, providing services to other people. I could not give him marks that did not reflect his actual ability.
I counselled him and tried to help him. I tried to persuade him to go backward, to take a lower level course, to get the prerequisites and to get up to speed. There we found a real problem because of the fact that there were no international standards, no agreement.
That part of what the member is proposing in this bill in terms of standards between provinces-we could extend that-should simply be expanded so that we have a quality control system, a testing system. Before students move on and particularly before they graduate they should be required to demonstrate an ability, a competency that is truly worthy of the profession or of the trade that they have entered.
My last comment is going to be with respect to the federal government's involvement. We all know that the constitutional mandate for education at the pre-post-secondary level is a provincial jurisdiction. We need to move in this country not to a federally mandated, federally controlled, federally organized, federal bureaucratic system but to a system whereby provincial governments will voluntarily get together in order to establish some national standards.
The same is true for post-secondary institutions, whether they are technical institutes like the one I worked at or universities or trades. It is very important. We need to have national standards so that there can be free trade among our trained people as well as among our goods. We need to have free trade in this country in order to be strong economically and to be able to compete internationally.
I would favour that. I would be opposed to the federal government doing that. Let it help in terms of getting the provinces together but let us not create another federal bureaucracy. I have found in my experience that when we work with a federal bureaucracy we all get pulled down to the lowest common denominator.
Let us, rather, establish standards and allow the individual provinces to work and work hard in their organization, in their training, in their statistical quality control so that we have the very best trained people who we can possibly have.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to be able to add this to this debate.