Learning: Making a Difference


Learning is the foundation of a healthy and prosperous society. Countries around the world are struggling to develop policies to encourage their citizens along a path of lifelong learning. But how can a country know if its citizens are, in fact, lifelong learners? The Canadian Council on Learning (CCL) tried to address that question by creating the world’s first Composite Learning Index.

In a knowledge-based society, learning cannot be restricted to the classroom – it must occur at home, at work and in the community. The Composite Learning Index is based on a framework developed by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), which identified “four pillars” of learning:

Learning to Know — foundational skills and knowledge, including literacy
Learning to Do — occupational and practical skills
Learning to Live Together — community and social engagement
Learning to Be — personal development and achieving a healthy balance in life

CCL selected 15 indicators (statistical data) that reflect the four pillars, and generated a score for each pillar. Those scores were combined to create overall scores for the country and for individual cities, regions and provinces.


Overall, Canada achieved a score of 73 out of 100. This score reflects the fact that Canadians do quite well on measurements related to schooling, but don’t fare as well on learning outside of the classroom. For example, on the internationally administered PISA tests, the skills of Canadian 15-year-olds rank among the highest of the 41 countries that participate, and Canadians’ post-secondary attainment is among the highest in the world.

However, Canadians have less opportunity to participate in workplace training than residents of many other developed countries, and on the international Adult Literacy and Life Skills survey, 42 percent of Canadian adults fail to achieve the level of literacy deemed to be necessary to participate fully in today’s knowledge-based society. These findings show that ongoing learning is too often not part of the Canadian lifestyle.


Lifelong learning is increasingly important in a knowledge-based society. The benefits for individuals include better job prospects, higher earnings, better health and greater levels of personal fulfilment. The benefits for communities include a stronger economy, a more cohesive society, and citizens who are more engaged. CCL created the Composite Learning Index to help Canadians understand the diverse components of lifelong learning and to spark a dialogue on ways to strengthen learning across Canada. By examining the results for the country and for individual communities, Canadians can see where improvements can be made. The index will be released annually and we hope it will serve as a catalyst for lifelong learning across Canada.

More detailed information about the Composite Learning Index, including interactive maps and data tables, is available at www.ccl-cca.ca/cli.

CCL is an independent, not-for-profit corporation funded through an agreement with Human Resources and Social Development Canada. Its mandate is to promote effective approaches to learning throughout
all stages of life.


Student skills
High-school dropouts
Participation by young adults in formal education
Post-secondary attainment

Charitable donations
Participation in clubs
Access to community institutions

Participation in job-related training
Availability of training at work
Access to institutions of learning

Learning through sports and recreation
Exposure to the Internet and reading materials in the home
Access to resources, such as libraries
Learning through culture and arts


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