Document Analysis

Theme 1’s EC-12 Document Analysis involved compiling and analyzing existing policy documents and empirical data sets to uncover policy dynamics in EC-12 in relation to Canadian sustainability issues.  This part of the project included:

  • Sustainability censuses of all 389 Canadian school divisions and 13 provincial and territorial Ministries of Education
  • A content analysis of non-sustainability specific and sustainability-specific policy of every Ministry of Education to better understand how sustainability is currently being engaged at the EC-12 level, and
  • An examination of existing data sets on sustainability policy in education accessible to or held by SEPN participants and organizations


Sustainability Censuses

SEPN conducted a census of sustainability features in all 13 provincial and territorial Ministries of Education and each of Canada’s 389 school divisions, boards, and districts in Canada. The EC-12 census provided a greater understanding of which factors contribute to the implementation of sustainability policy at the EC-12 level across Canada.

School Division Census

For the school district census, geographic characteristics (e.g., province/territory, latitude and longitude of the district’s administrative centre) and district characteristics (e.g., language of instruction, plan/policy related to Aboriginal or multicultural education, type of school district (public, separate, charter, or hospital-based), number of schools in the district, student population) were collected. A variety of sustainability-related variables were also collected including whether the school district had:

  • A sustainability policy
  • Undertaken a sustainability or environmental certification program (specifically, EcoSchools or Brundtland Green Schools) and
  • A sustainability staff

Ministry of Education Census

The research team collected all policies, strategic plans, overarching curriculum guides/frameworks (excluding individual course curricula), and annual reports for each Ministry of Education. The census examined whether the Ministry had:

  • A sustainability-related policy
  • Mandates related to sustainable or green school operations, and Green School certifications or designations
  • Developed sustainability-related curriculum available through the Ministry
  • Conducted sustainability-related research or community engagement
  • Discussed sustainability-related activities in its annual reports or strategic plans

SEPN has conducted two sustainability censuses at the EC-12 level: one of all 289 school boards and the other examining all 13 provincial/territorial Ministries of Education.

SEPN has also completed a sustainability census of all 220 accredited post-secondary institutions.


Content Analysis of Policy Documents

SEPN has collected sustainability specific and non-sustainability-specific policy documents from all of Canada’s provincial and territorial Ministries of Education.

Documents included annual reports, curriculum foundational documents, and other high-level policy documents from all provincial/territorial Ministries of Education and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC).  Relevant national and international documents (e.g., UN declarations) that may influence regional policy adoption were also examined.

The documents were analyzed using critical policy analysis drawing on discourse theory.

  • For non-sustainability-specific documents, we looked at key themes and priorities indicated in the documents.  This portion of the analysis examined what priorities are suggested in the language used in the policies, how those priorities link to broader government policy, and how other priorities are being articulated in relation to (or not) priorities of sustainability
  • Sustainability-specific documents underwent a parallel content analysis, with a focus on sustainability-specific themes and language in policies and plans from Ministries of Education.  This analysis examined approaches to sustainability as well as examining points of definitional trajectories, policy mobility, and points of tension among approaches