As a student studying the law, I have always had a strong passion to bring in more equality and democracy into our society. I would like to share my views on the current education system of Canada specifically in Ontario. I was very surprised by the outcome of the education system has gone through as a result of the bills that have been passed since 1995. The Ontario Public School System is meant to provide all students with an equal opportunity to maximize their educational potential, but the lack of responsibility the government has taken has failed to provide that.
On January 13th, 1997, the Ontario government introduced Bill 104, the Fewer Boards Act. It changed educational opportunity in drastic ways, such as, diminishing and removing the responsibilities of locally elected trustees, transferring their duties to government-appointed commissioners, and paving the way for an underfunding of public education. The Bill sets up a centralized board for controlling the education budgets, contracts, funds, and spending decisions. This scarcely follows a democratic procedure, but instead, it has given the government absolute power.
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And, as we all know Public Education is the cornerstone of a democratic society, and every student requires the right to have a stable, safe, and qualified environment to learn. I feel that the local trustees should handle education rather than the government since the trustees are elected by the community, they are specially trained to focus on all aspects of improving education, and being aboard for education in a district allows them to work in the best interest for our future and of that community. The government has many responsibilities, and controlling the education system will diminish the quality it.
Bill 160 has similar traits to Bill 104; they both centralizes control of the education policy and financing in the hands of the provincial government. The passing of the law has built up hostility within the people working or participating in the sector including, parents and students. It caused a massive strike for two weeks. This bill allowed the Tories to slash the $14 billion education budget to $700million a year. This also leads to the lay off of about 10 000 teachers. They also rewrote the curriculum to make only 4 years of high school instead of 5, because it a cheaper and more cynical way to generate more money by gaining it through university fees. As a result, the last 4 years of high school have been unsatisfactory.
I have experienced large classes, very little school supplies are offered, many extracurricular activities cancelled, there are no tutorial days offered to study and prepare for exams, and I have had teachers that are certainly not qualified enough to teach. This Bill has completely dissected the Education system and has taken out many important components required for the proper function of the system. As mentioned earlier, the government has other responsibilities therefore Education adds to their workload but it also gives the government more power. This does not allow them to focus on important issues, and they are clearly not education professionals who have been trained to work in the best interest of the people.
Centralization seems to be the dominating feature of all the bills, including Bill 74. Bill 74, also better known as the Education Accountability Act, extracts the most basic rights of an employee and not allowing them to even discuss it. This Bill eliminates the concept of collective bargaining, and basically, it disregards communication between the employee and the employer. The minister of Education also has the right to assign work to a teacher at any time including the weekends, with a likely chance of no overtime paid.
This act leads to the assumption that democratically elected school trustees are not given the job in full confidence; also the minister has the right to overrule the school board decisions that have already been made. All these restrictions have been made to stop communication and negotiations from the employee, and, it risks the disregarding of workers giving them no rights to an appeal; how does that show any vital democratic signs of this ruling? I believe that communication and cooperation is the most important task an employee and employer should maintain.
This Act is meant to increase the education quality, to improve the accountability of school boards to students, parents and taxpayers and to enhance student’s school experience. How can that improve the educational experience in any way if you are not allowing us to express our feelings about inconsiderate Bills which take away fundamental rights of the students, teachers, and parents and tax-payers? I feel that I am getting less and less out of the education system as the government is taking more.
Another Bill that attacks the education system in Ontario is Bill 45. It basically is a scheme that the Conservative government has used to transfer public funds for private schools; in other words, even though I go to a public school, my parent’s money goes to fund the private school. The figures which were revealed showed that $2.3 billion will be taken out of public funds. Ontario’s public education system is already underfunded; therefore, efforts should be made to improve public education before assisting private education. The government has relentlessly drained billions of dollars from public education and has found ways to escape its responsibility to fund public schools. This proves that government is disreputable, and incompetent in doing its job, and that centralization of the school boards has had weakening results to education.
Finally, I would like to express my views on the “Double Cohort” system which was a deciding factor with bill 160. As a grade 12 student, I am one to be affected by the system. Since I am in my final years in high school, I am working towards the goal of getting accepted by a well-recognized university in Ontario. I have been overwhelmed, stressed, and I am constantly worrying in fear of not getting accepted. I am an average student, but that is still not good enough, since I have double the usual competition to go against.
When this plan was first set out in 1998, the government, like before made false promises; they ‘guaranteed’ that every student who is qualified will have a spot in university, but now statistics say that there is a likely chance that 20, 000 ‘qualified’ applicants will not have space to get in. The governments plan to concede all the deceiving facts have failed, and even many Ontario universities have stated that they are not ready for the double cohort year, mainly because they don’t have the facilities to support the bulge. Also, the universities as well are underfunded as deregulation (privatization) has caused tuition fees to hike up.
This is also another crucial factor, that’s sets back students from attending universities. I do not deserve to go thought my high school years constantly stressed out; I deserve a proper beneficial education. My parents immigrated to Canada because they wanted me to get the best education, but I am not feeling that satisfaction at all. This has just proved to me that the government is hungry for power and is quite selfish in its ways. There had been many debates before 1995 that the health and education system will not be affected, but that was a false deception as well; right now in Ontario health care and education are the most poorly funded and all fault goes to the impotent skills of the government.
Therefore, I believe that the Ontario education system is failing, and I hope that you will take into consideration and take actions against the faults you have caused. There is a huge potential to improve the situation, but I feel that the responsibility should be resolved in smaller parties like the elected trustees. And lastly, I hope that Ontario will approach education in a more respectable and democratic manner to work in the best interest of the people.
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