For half a century, Canadian teachers have volunteered in Sierra Leone, Ghana and other developing countries, helping with teacher training and curriculum development. Ottawa needs to explain its abrupt and inexplicable decision to end its support for this valuable program.
The official reason the Canadian International Development Agency has offered is inadequate: that it is "uncertain" the international teacher exchange sustains professional development, and learning outcomes. It is a comical assertion, especially coming as it does after five decades.
The professional development courses focus on everything from math and science curriculum development, how to discipline unruly children without using force, to the importance of building latrines for girls. How can such initiatives not aid learning outcomes?
The program fits perfectly within CIDA's oft-touted goal of "securing the future of children and youth". The exchange is also a cost-effective partnership. CIDA commits $5-million over five years (from an annual budget of $3.2-billion), while the Canadian Teachers Federation picks up the other 40 per cent of the costs. The teachers volunteer their time.
CIDA's rejection of the program without a clear explanation is a symptom of a greater problem: a lack of accountability in the operation of Canada's overseas aid initiatives. While CIDA's counterparts in the U.S. and the U.K. - US AID, and the Department for International Development - have embraced the concept of transparency in the funding of international aid, CIDA's approach has remained stubbornly opaque.
This funding decision illustrates the need for reform.