Governing Education.


222 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-0-8020-8622-8
DDC 379.7127




Reviewed by Ashley Thomson

Ashley Thomson is a full librarian at Laurentian University and co-editor or co-author of nine books, most recently Margaret Atwood: A Reference Guide, 1988-2005.


Do civil servants really run the government? What role do lobbyists play? Can a single politician change the course of events? These and other questions are typical of the ones addressed in this book, which is based on Levin’s experience as Manitoba’s deputy minister of education, training, and youth and his stint at the Department of Advanced Education between November 1999 and September 2002, although it has no doubt been enriched by an academic perspective. Upon completion of his term as deputy minister, he returned to the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Education as a professor, and currently he is Canada research chair in education leadership and policy at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.


This splendid book is a welcome and accessible guide to “the challenges of governing in the 21st century” — at least for those who believe that, while government is far from perfect, it is also important and can make improvements in society.


Setting his book out in nine chapters, Levin first analyzes the overall governing environment and then the structure of education within that context. To place the remainder of the book in perspective, he then includes some suggestions on policies that, in his opinion, would improve educational outcomes. From that point, he reviews five separate issues he had to deal with as deputy minister: Grade Three Assessment, the expansion of Manitoba’s college system, school funding, the amalgamation of school divisions, and the improvement of adult education. Based on these experiences, the book concludes with some wise advice on how to operate as a senior civil servant and some tips on improving government and education. Here is just one: “Sometimes it is easier to move issues forward if they are not high profile enough to become a substantive object of political interest.”

While this book is based on a snapshot of educational change in Manitoba over three years, in fact, its insights go far beyond education and far beyond Manitoba. It deserves to be placed in the hands of any person involved in any way with government.


Levin, Benjamin., “Governing Education.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 28, 2024,