How does a good education make a better tomorrow?

Author: Michael Cochrane

Photo: JUMP Math

We may not fully appreciate this when we’re young, but the education we receive as children lays the foundation for our future lives and future opportunities. I’ve been very fortunate in my own career, which I definitely attribute to the educational opportunities I had in high school, and the post-secondary education that high school subsequently allowed me to pursue.

A large percentage of the Canadian population, however, doesn’t complete high school, let alone go on to a post-secondary education. Nearly eight per cent of Canadians leave high school early without a diploma and that figure is much higher in some regions and among some populations, including Aboriginal youth.

Most of us know that education leads to better jobs and greater earning potential. The facts speak loud and clear: only 60 per cent of adults (aged 25 to 44) without a high school diploma are employed, compared to 76 per cent who have graduated high school and 86 per cent with a post-secondary certificate or diploma. And I’ve seen estimates that as many as 77 per cent of jobs will soon require post-secondary education of some sort. It’s pretty hard to go on to post-secondary education if you haven’t completed high school.

The human cost
The downsides of not completing high school extend well beyond career prospects; these young people aren’t developing the skills or confidence that will allow them positive options in the areas of work, leisure, culture, civic, community involvement and personal relationships. They’re more likely to have health problems, get involved in crime and need social assistance.

And what’s more, this is a cycle that repeats itself. Kids need positive role models in order to succeed in school. Those who leave early often have parents or siblings who have done the same.

The cost to Canada
Investing in education not only has a positive impact on our young people and their futures, but on Canada’s economy. High school leavers cost Canada an estimated $37 billion annually and make up about 85 per cent of those receiving welfare. They aren’t qualified for the many vacant skilled job openings Canada needs to fill in order to be globally competitive. By being proactive and funding programs that position children and adults for success, we can develop individuals that can positively impact the Canadian economy.

What can we do about it?
Much research has been done into why youth still are leaving the education system, and the list includes barriers both inside and outside the classroom:

  • Coming from a family or community with low socio-economic status, or that places low priority on education
  • Household stress or family circumstances, such as pressure to contribute to family income or assume parental roles
  • Bullying, or other social difficulties at school
  • School is seen as either too difficult or unrewarding

Clearly this is a deeply rooted, multi-dimensional societal problem that we have to tackle from a variety of angles, and that’s just what LIFT is doing.

Since joining LIFT’s National Leadership Council, I’ve been really encouraged to hear about some of its recent successes.

Take a Hike Youth Risk Foundation
Take a Hike is an alternative education program – which involves adventure based learning, academics, therapy and community involvement – helps at-risk youth who have dropped out of high school or are on the verge of doing so. With the support of LIFT, the organization has been able to expand the program to two new communities in BC, with plans for more.

Poor math skills can contribute to students deciding to leave secondary school, as well as reduced employment opportunities, lower job salaries and other negative social and economic outcomes throughout their lives. JUMP Math aims to encourage a love of math in both students and teachers, and the kids who are using this program are acquiring math skills at a phenomenal rate. Since partnering with LIFT two years ago, the organization has increased participation in its program by 35 per cent and equipped many more kids with the numeracy skills for a successful future.

I personally feel very strongly about investing in education. It’s not only critical to the growth of our economy and the stability of our society, it’s also about personal empowerment for our young people.

I’m confident that LIFT can build on its successes to date with its Education Impact Fund, through which it will support nine social purpose organizations focused on educational issues like high school completion, literacy and lifelong learning over the next three years.

If you’d like to support LIFT in its work to remove barriers to education, I encourage you to visit its website and to donate today.


Michael Cochrane is a member of LIFT’s National Leadership Council.

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