The Road Map for 21st Century Learning in Ontario: The Catholic Graduate Expectations

Catholic and non-Catholic alike can take great value from the Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectations

Educators globe-wide have set out to find a road map for the 21st century, regardless of being almost 15 years in. Whether you are a parent, educator or business, you are looking for quality people that will execute quality work. But on the journey to execution of this great work it’s the way we treat people,  the relationship and the long-lasting, sustainable partnerships that make all the difference. Great work and its effect is rooted in relationships.

Students of the Catholic school system here in Ontario Canada have been exposed to the Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectations for well over a decade and the effect of these expectations have been measured in the latest study conducted by the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.  Commissioned by the Institute for Catholic Education, the
study provides data that sustains the need to continue promoting the OCGE’s.  

The expectations have been crafted in such a beautiful way that it doesn’t take much to be circumspect about how you could apply them the 21st-century living. Rooted in Christ’s teachings, they are easily interpreted and so overarching that people of all faiths and denominations can reflect on their application with ease.

All around the world there are instances of the perfect skill set for 21st century learners, but take a look at the Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectations and you will come to realize that we’ve been sitting on the perfect roadmap for close to a decade. A roadmap that takes us through the exact quality of a person that we want to contribute ideas to, share opinions with, innovate for and form a sustainable bond with 21st-century society.  

In Ontario, the Institute for Catholic Education governs the CGE’s. The original documents may be viewed here.


1. The Discerning Believer

Believe it or not, we as Catholics are encouraged to reflect, to question and to reform our beliefs and our faith. But in doing so, we are called into action, which is the key element of discernment. Only when we take action for a just cause can we call ourselves ‘Discerning Believers’. Reflection without action is not discernment, it is simply reflection. One could compare it to a social media revolution that takes no hold in the physical world. Until there are tangible, measurable results that come from a course of action, there can be no real change. 

2. The Effective Communicator

The entire world of education agrees that the skill of Communication is one that the graduate of 2030 and beyond will need to master in order to be a contributor to society. Looking at the graphic, you will notice that the ears are quite exaggerated to show how important a role listening plays in communication. Now more than ever, we need people who are honest and clear about their ideas, and who integrate their faith in the use of arts, media and technology.

3. The Creative and Holistic Thinker

I’m not entirely sure this one needs to much explanation. Creativity always tops the list of needed skills for 2030 and beyond. It’s when we add the beauty of holistic thinking that we solve problems in an innovative and responsible way. This thinker cannot be trapped within one subject area – this thinker longs to integrate all parts of the whole.

4. A Self-Directed, Responsible, Life-Long Learner

Yet another skill that educators have identified to guide our future into 2030 and beyond. Leadership, innovation, initiative, flexibility and adaptability. This skill helps develop confidence, respect and dignity for one’s self and others. This skill resides in those who constantly self-reflect, self-evaluate and make changes to improve. Our future depends on this skill more than any other for the sake of balance and a higher standard of living for us all. This is every educator’s dream…

5. The Collaborative Contributor

It has become the mantra for all of education to call for our schools to provide more and more opportunities for collaboration. Yet, time and time again they fail to provide the ‘HOW-TO’ of collaboration – especially for the youngest members of our society. What does it mean to be interdependent, to think critically and to not only work to your own potential but to help those around you reach theirs? There must be respect and appreciation for originality and integrity especially in the 21st Century. Contributions made to the growth of the team are just as important to the growth of the project.

6. A Caring Family Member

It would be very hard to argue that the family structure is under immense pressure to stay together. Words like compassion and love are only effective when they are bound by respect – not the bottom dollar as so many clever marketing campaigns will have us believe. Intimacy and love are bound to value and honour within the family context. Unity, strength and honour bind the family together and that strength feeds the community in the light of our God-given gifts. What a beautiful and critically important principle.

7. A Responsible Citizen

When we look at some of the horrible things that streak across the web, it’s hard not to panic. Cyber-bullying, harassment, defamation and degradation can all be weakened, if not eliminated if we embrace the basic principles of accountability, equality, democracy, peace and justice. The responsible citizen in our Catholic view, should find it difficult to walk away when there is someone in need, seeks and grants forgiveness but also respects and affirms diversity of our world’s people and cultures. This is all done in the formation of Catholic traditions.

I realize that it may not be ‘trendy’ to use faith as a TOP 10 article but let me tell you something – if it’s right, it’s right and if it works, it works.  No system is perfect, but this one has such beauty and a positive outlook that is hard to overlook.