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Experts say baby ‘bust’ from pandemic won’t hit Canada as hard as U.S.

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TORONTO —
Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic hit North America, jokes abounded about a potential “baby boom” resulting from lockdown measures that enabled couples to spend more time together.

However, experts say that we might be in for a baby “bust,” and see birth rates fall due in part to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

Research published last week by the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank, predicted the U.S. could see 300,000 to 500,000 fewer births next year.

But could Canada see an equivalent drop in birth numbers? Or are the two countries — and the way the pandemic has impacted them — different enough that Canada will fare slightly better?

Economists Melissa S. Kearney and Phillip Levine wrote in Brookings that economic factors have a lot more to do with babies than you might think.

Unemployment rates correlate with a decrease in birth rates, the report says, noting that “a one percentage-point increase in state-year unemployment rates is associated with a 0.9 to 2.2 percent decrease in birth rates” in the U.S.

The authors pointed out that an economic downturn that only lasts a short period of time is unlikely to create a huge change in birth rates. But an event such as COVID-19 that affects so many levels of the economy — and has caused layoffs on such a grand scale — is more likely to have a lasting impact.

“A deeper and longer lasting recession will then mean lower lifetime income for some people, which means that some women will not just delay births, but they will decide to have fewer children,” the report states.

The report analyzed the 2008 recession as well as the economic impact of the 1918 influenza pandemic, sometimes called the Spanish Flu, and found that both events correlated with a drop in births.

They added that stats from the National Center for Health Statistics showed that states that experienced a greater economic toll during the 2008 recession experienced a larger drop in births.

While there is only birth data for 21 states from 1918, large spikes in mortality rates from the epidemic correlated with lower spikes in birth rates, backdated nine months to approximate when conception would’ve occurred. When mortality soared, birth rates would fall by as much as 12.5 per cent.

“The drop in births that resulted from the Spanish Flu was likely due to the uncertainty and anxiety that a public health crisis can generate, which could affect people’s desire to give birth, and also biologically affect pregnancy and birth outcomes,” the report said. “That could be true during this crisis as well.”

The economy was going steady during 1918 in the U.S. due to the war effort. The report suggests this means that COVID-19 could have an even bigger impact on birth rates because of the double whammy of anxieties regarding health and finances.

The report acknowledged that a larger portion of deaths during the 1918 epidemic affected women who were in the ages where they were most likely to have kids, as opposed to COVID-19, which largely affects those who are older. The report also pointed out that their analysis of the connection between economic factors and birth rates does not take into account other factors such as better access to health insurance, education, contraceptives, birth control and abortion.

Canada and the U.S. have had similar rates of unemployment as a result of COVID-19: in May, Canada’s unemployment rate was 13.7 per cent, according to StatCan, while the U.S. had an unemployment rate of 13.3 per cent, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics.

If unemployment rates had the exact same impact on Canada’s birth rates as the U.S., once we adjust for population, Canada could expect to see 30,000 to 50,000 less births next year.

But according to Elisabeth Gugl, a family economist and associate professor at the University of Victoria, it’s highly unlikely we’ll see numbers that in a dip in birth rates.

“I don’t anticipate a proportionate drop in birth rates in Canada,” she told CTVNews.ca over email. “The reason for that is twofold. One, people in Canada face different constraints than in the U.S. in thinking about whether to have a child [or] another child or not.

“Second, the pandemic is being managed differently in Canada than in the U.S. and so I don’t anticipate the same economic fallout from the pandemic as in the U.S.”

The U.S. has been criticized on the world stage for its handling of the pandemic, and has recently seen several states report soaring numbers of new cases after attempting to re-open prematurely. In Canada, many provinces have flattened the curve of the virus, and re-opening is being implemented with more caution than our neighbours south of the border.

Gugl pointed out that birth rates after the 2008 recession in Canada did not fall significantly, although the overall trend of birth rates in Canada has been on a slow decline since the ‘80s.

“Canada has fared better than the U.S. both in the 2008 recession and the current pandemic,” she said. “So even if economic down turns impact the birth rates in the U.S. and Canada in the same way, because we see less of a down turn (or a shorter down turn), we should also expect less of a reaction in terms of the birth rate.”

She also pointed out that while economic reasoning is a huge factor in planning a family, there are different financial considerations for a Canadian family as opposed to an American one.

“Private vs. public costs of raising children are distributed differently in Canada and the U.S., because Canada has better public services,” Gugl said. “Health care is public, we have better parental leave provisions, our public schools are by and large of high quality, and tuition for post-secondary education is lower.”

However, because families in Canada are slightly more likely than in the U.S. to have both parents as dual-earners, according to Gugl — and the gender wage gap is slightly narrower in Canada than in the U.S. — “then having a child can be quite costly in terms of the earnings the couple forgoes if one of them takes time off to take care of the child,” something economists call the “opportunity cost of parental time.”

It’s not that having children is necessarily cheaper in Canada, but that the considerations are different.

A baby bust is still likely coming in the next year, according to both Gugl and Tom McCormack, a business economist from Metro Economics in Burlington, Ont., who spoke to CTV News in April.

“I don’t think in this world right now people are going to be feeling too good about bringing kids into it,” McCormack said.

But Canada’s population as a whole will likely be more affected by the way COVID-19 has impacted immigration than by the coming decline in births, Gugl said.

“Canada relies heavily on immigrants to keep its population growing,” she pointed out, echoing earlier concerns raised by McCormack.

“You’re not going to get as many people moving to Canada or moving anywhere as you normally would,” he said in April. “So the population’s going to suffer in the short term.”

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Toronto school board hires 350 teachers in rush to meet demand for online classes

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TORONTO —
The Toronto District School Board has hired 350 new teachers as it scrambles to meet a rising demand for online learning that has resulted in some students being left without a classroom.

The TDSB had previously pushed back the start of online learning on two separate occasions due to higher than expected demand.

On Tuesday, virtual school finally began for many students, one week after those who opted for in-person instruction began to return to classrooms.

However, an unspecified number of elementary students logged on to the board’s online learning platform to find that they have not yet been assigned a teacher and will be expected to learn independently for the time being.

In an interview with CP24, TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said that the board has seen the enrollment for its online learning program balloon from 56,000 students just a few weeks ago to about 78,000 today.

He said that as a result the board has identified a need for 500 additional teachers.

Over the last 24 hours it has hired about 350 teachers off its supply list but more will have to be brought on board in the coming days in order to assign classrooms to the thousands of students that have not yet been assigned one.

“We need these teachers hired as soon as possible. I anticipate we will be able to whittle that number down even further today,” Bird told CP24. “We should have a better idea in a day or so as far as a more concrete timeline. We are aiming and hoping that we can get all our virtual classrooms up for this week but really we will have a better idea once we get those staffing numbers updated later on today and tomorrow.”

All parents that enrolled their child in the TDSB’s online learning program were asked to log into the remote learning platform Brightspace on Tuesday morning as scheduled but those students who have not yet been assigned a teacher were then redirected to some independent learning resources on the board’s website.

Bird said that while the board had hoped to have its virtual classrooms “fully up and running” in time for today, the sheer scale of the undertaking made that impossible.

“We have never done anything like this on this scale and I would argue probably haven’t done it in public education across Ontario or Canada to this level,” he said. “It takes some time and we understand that parents, staff and students are frustrated. We get that. But for the majority of students, they are learning today. Whether it is in person or online, a majority of students are learning today and we are aiming to get everyone else up and running by the end of the week as best as we can.”

The TDSB has said that a total of 60,000 students have been signed up for its online learning program at the elementary level and 18,000 at the secondary level.

A total of 2,200 teachers are required to fill all of the needed virtual classrooms at the elementary level.

With files from The Canadian Press

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Seneca joins collaborative national network supporting student mobility

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Toronto, Sept. 22, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Seneca has taken the next steps in its digital adoption strategy by joining Canada’s official credential wallet and national network led by the Association of Registrars of the Universities and Colleges of Canada (ARUCC). Called the ARUCC National Network, it provides students with the ability to access and share official, digitized transcripts, credentials, badges and microcredentials — anytime and anywhere.

Pioneered by ARUCC and powered by Digitary’s global digital credentials platform, the Network is unique in scope and moves Canadian higher education to the forefront of innovation by providing a trusted credential engine built for learners. By joining, Seneca will unite with other Canadian colleges and universities that have collaborated to create this national credential wallet and trusted, online document exchange platform.

The Network is the first of its kind in Canada and will provide three million learners nationwide with a secure, permission-based platform for accessing and sharing their official documents and credentials. The initiative supports student mobility as they transition into, between and beyond postsecondary institutions in Canada on their educational journey into the workplace. The Network also protects them, institutions and government from increasing document fraud. 

Other key features of the ARUCC National Network include:

  • 24-7 access for learners
  • bilingual service and support in French and English
  • ability for learners to access, view and share their verified and official transcripts, credentials, badges, microcredentials and documents in a digitized format
  • ability for Canadian postsecondary institutions and higher education partners to work together with the network to exchange official documents — with permission of the learner

“Providing secure, verified digital credentials to our students is incredibly important and hugely valuable in supporting them as they embark on their future employment,” said Sharon Kinasz, Seneca’s Registrar. “We are delighted to join the ARUCC National Network powered by Digitary as we embrace digital adoption and enhance our sustainability practices at Seneca. Our enhancing supports for our students, graduates and alumni demonstrate Seneca’s dedication to supporting the learner’s experience through innovative digitization.”

“We are thrilled to collaborate with Seneca and extend the benefits of trusted digital credentials through a secure, national platform — the very first of its kind for Canada,” said Joanne Duklas, ARUCC’s Executive Lead. “Our ultimate mission for the ARUCC National Network is to deliver a portable credential wallet to the three million postsecondary learners across Canada. Powered by Digitary technology, we are supported by global digital credentials experts who are skilled at implementing scalable, national solutions that make sense for students.”

“Digitary has always been learner-focused in everything that we do, and we strongly relate to ARUCC and Seneca’s mission to enhance the experience and digital capabilities offered to students. In providing effective digital solutions and verified academic credentials, we can support learners’ global mobility and their journey through employment,” said James Murray-Beckman, Digitary’s Chief Operating Officer. “We’re delighted to welcome Seneca to the ARUCC National Network powered by Digitary and will continue to support ARUCC and its partners to extend the digital capabilities to all learners across Canada.” 

About Seneca

Combining career and professional skills training with theoretical knowledge, Seneca provides a polytechnic education to 30,000 full-time and 60,000 part-time students. With campuses in Toronto, York Region and Peterborough and education partners around the world, Seneca offers degrees, graduate certificates, diplomas and certificates in more than 300 full-time, part-time and online programs, now most of them virtually. Seneca’s credentials are renowned for their quality and respected by employers. Co-op and work placements, applied research projects, entrepreneurial opportunities and the latest technology ensure that Seneca graduates are highly skilled and ready to work. Learn more about Seneca.

About the Association of Registrars of the Universities and Colleges of Canada (ARUCC)

ARUCC provides leadership in the post-secondary education field and service to its member institutions nationally and internationally, helping foster the advancement of registrarial practices and learner focused service delivery in Canada. Learn more about ARUCC.

About Digitary

Digitary was launched in Dublin, Ireland in 2005, and has grown to become a leading online platform for certifying, sharing, and verifying academic credentials. Learner-centric since the very start, Digitary enables millions of learners to share their verified academic achievements online, securely, quickly and easily. Digitary is now used by organizations in over 135 countries. Learn more about Digitary.

Caroline Grech
Seneca
media.relations@senecacollege.ca

Joanne Duklas
Association of Registrars of the Universities and Colleges of Canada (ARUCC)
info@aruccnationalnetwork.ca

Catherine Stanley
Digitary
catherine.stanley@digitary.net

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Boards pivot to Plan B as outbreaks close schools

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Local school boards say they’re prepared to pivot to remote learning if and when an outbreak of the coronavirus forces them to halt classes and send students home.

An Ottawa elementary school has become the first in Ontario to close due to COVID-19 after two staff members and two students tested positive.

It’s not ideal, but it’s something that we’re prepared for.– Mike Dubeau, West Quebec School Board

Parents of students at Monsignor Paul Baxter Catholic School in Ottawa’s Barrhaven neighbourhood have been told that for the next two weeks their children’s learning will move online.

“The entire class including the teacher will move to distance learning,” Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) spokesperson Sharlene Hunter wrote in a statement to CBC.

Hunter said it may take a couple of days to iron out technical issues, but she said both students and staff already have the basic tools they’ll need to continue learning online.

“All of our staff have received training on the use of the learning management system (Hapara) in order to be prepared for this scenario,” Hunter wrote. “They have been posting resources on the learning management system even when students were attending in person.”

 

Hunter said students have had instruction on how to use the remote learning system. Students who don’t have access to a laptop will be provided with one. 

The OCSB says students’ marks won’t be affected while they’re learning remotely, and those who require educational assistance will continue to receive it online.

These remote classes are different from the full-time remote learning program some students have opted to take instead of attending school in person.

Outbreaks elsewhere

Monsignor Paul Baxter isn’t the only school in the region that’s had to pivot to Plan B. Last week, a COVID-19 outbreak closed Fellowes High School in Pembroke, Ont., while 45 students at South Hull Elementary School in the Aylmer sector of Gatineau, Que., were sent home to isolate for 14 days after two tested positive. 

Mike Dubeau, director of education with the West Quebec School Board (WQSB), said a plan for online learning was already in place and went into effect as soon as the school was notified about the positive tests.

“If students have to go home for two weeks or if we have to shut down the school, we switch to online learning,” Dubeau said. “It’s not ideal, but it’s something that we’re prepared for.”

Currently 250 students are enrolled in the WQSB’s virtual learning program. Dubeau said given the unpredictability of the current situation, online learning now has a bigger role to play than ever in education.

“I believe it’s an opportunity for lasting change because we’re learning new ways to deliver the curriculum, new ways to assess, new ways to teach,” he said. “So when we come out on the other side of this pandemic, there’s going to be a richness of knowledge on how to teach online and how to evaluate.”

Similarly, teachers at Ottawa Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) schools have been set up to teach remotely through Google Classrooms or Virtual Learning Environments. 

“These were created prior to the start of the school year and are maintained weekly by educators,” OCDSB spokesperson Joe Koraith wrote in an emailed statement Monday evening. “Key learning, resources, tasks, etc. are posted to support student learning. Students who are away or who may be isolating would have full access to the virtual classroom.”

Koraith said in the event that an entire classroom, cohort or entire school is closed or can no longer meet, students can shift to remote learning “with enhanced synchronous requirements.”

“Knowing that we may be required to move from in person to remote with little notice, we are ready to support students,” he said.

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