A Fair Education System for Everyone
by louisp on May 9, 2015 - 9:18pm
Since the election of the Liberal Party in April 2014, major changes occurred in the province with the implementation of austerity measures. Like in any political mandates, experts in political science are divided to determine if such governmental policies are going to satisfy the voters since two worldviews collide. On one side, Quebeckers with a more conservative opinion claim that it is a necessary effort to make in order to reduce the public debt and to have more economic opportunities in the future. On the contrary, those who support social measures would say about austerity that it creates more social inequalities by cutting in the services to the population, especially the visible minorities, those with disabilities, or those from a lower income than the average, to name but a few. With all due respect for a broad diversity of opinions, it will be shown that investing more money into the educational system would be beneficial for Quebeckers because it would help students who come from lower-income families and visible minorities to have a better access to higher education. Economic researches will outline the importance that the provincial government has to play in education, researches from sociology will demonstrate that treating visible minorities students equally do not allow them to have a complete learning experience, and researches from educational administration will state the importance of promoting education to the population.
The economic benefits of investing more in education
From the economic perspective, lowering tuition fees while increasing governmental funding for universities is a possible solution to improve access to students from all social classes and ethnicities, while recruiting the most talented ones. Many experts came to this conclusion. First, researchers Easton and Rockerbie state that one of the major issues of Canadian universities is their failure to enroll enough students to meet the demand of qualified workers from private businesses (191). According to them, the working population with at least an undergraduate degree went from 18.4% in 1991 to 23.2% in 2001, but still more skilled workers would be needed (Easton and Rockerbie 191). One problem with this finding is that the data are fifteen years old. Nevertheless, a journal article entitled Bachelor’s Degree Still Worth It demonstrates that it is still a persisting issue nowadays. Indeed, even if Canada is the country among all OECD countries that produces the most college graduates, the demand for skilled workers is still superior to the supply since, on average, holders of a university degree are being paid 45 to 60 per cent more than those with only a high-school diploma (Jerema). Therefore, in their 2008 education economics research, Easton and Rockerbie came to the conclusion that decreasing tuition fees that students have to pay while increasing the government subsidies paid to universities was the only way, in the current educational system, to enroll more qualified students in the Canadians universities (193). They illustrate it using the graph that follows:
(Easton and Rockerbie 193)
In this graph, only the aggregate demand model is used where the AC curve represents the average cost that a student would pay for its tuition fees while showing the relationship between the number of students admitted (N) and the tuition fees paid by each individuals (P). Canada universities’ current situation is located at the intersection N0 and P1. Researchers came to the conclusion that the only possible way to cause more students from low-income families to go to university is to lower tuition fees to P2 while continuing to admit N0 students (Easton and Rockerbie 199). Another option would be to decrease fees while increasing the number of admitted students, but universities would have to lower their admission standards, and most of them would not be willing to do that, because they would be labeled as the lowest quality ones (Easton and Rockerbie 199). Considering this, it shall not be forgotten that the goal is to increase the access to students from all social classes without lowering their learning experience. Another
option was suggested by the researchers in their literature review. This passage summarizes how the tuition fees should be priced: “If the private rate of return to a university degree exceeds the social rate of return, the student should bear the cost of tuition” (Dickson, Milne, and Murrell 1996). Similarly, an utilitarian approach was used in my superpost where I suggested that the government should pay for the entire education of students who were the most likely to throw money back into the economy through taxes paid to the government (Provost; Noack; Shepherd). Therefore, the fact that other academic papers come to a similar conclusion than the superpost that was written gives credibility to the solutions proposed for the issue, which is allowing those from lower social classes to have the same access to education as those who are more privileged.
The sociological benefits of investing more in education
With no regard to tuition fees, a sociological paper concluded that the biggest issue concerning students’ unequal access to education in Canada was that visible minorities were treated the same way as the White majority. Indeed, according to Goddard, Johansson and Norberg, the fact that marginalized cultures have less chances to succeed at school comes from the fact that the way subsidies are distributed into the educational system is problematic since it fails to meet the need of minorities (8). One good example to apply this statement is the First Nations in Canada where they have a different culture, beliefs, values, and languages than the White majority, but the system does not provide them the opportunity to have access to a higher education that adapts itself to their differences. This issue affects those from both public and private school systems (Goddard, Johansson and Norberg 8), which means that the researchers’ findings are consistent with what I have been blogging about throughout the semester. Indeed, in an editorial entitled The ‘Gated Communities’ of Education in Quebec, a teacher argues that if
visible minorities from public schools are not adapted to their learning environment, it is exclusively the fault of private schools because they do not allow lower-class students to be mixed with those from upper classes (Cukier). Although Cukier is a trained teacher and that she has the right to her own opinion, this quote taken from a sociological research believes that minorities are excluded “when the majority of the school’s educators and principals represent the major culture from an ethnic and class perspective. Policy documents, timetables, text books, teaching aids, rules, staff recruitment, in-service training and so on building on and reinforce the mainstream culture’s assumptions of learning and socialization” (Goddard, Johansson, and Norberg 10). In other words, school principals fail to provide appropriate resources and to communicate with students who have special needs because of their use of an avoidance strategy to ensure an equitable access. This situation is more common than one might think since an article from philosopher Jaylynne Hutchinson demonstrated, using the example of history courses, how, in the current system, only students who adjust themselves to the dominant group will succeed at school. She explains that our Western culture does not teach how unequal systems such as racism and oppression were implement. It has consequences for minorities because today’s White majority is unaware of the community in which they live in, which increases the tendency for many to have prejudices based on suppositions regarding minorities (Hutchinson 317). To find a solution to this problem, many Canadian school principals point out that with today’s economical context, they are able to provide an educational environment of equality, but not one of equity because of a lack of financial resources, which appears to disadvantage those who are already marginalized (Goddard, Johansson, and Norberg 12). It is thus essential for Quebeckers to be aware that students from minority cultures are facing higher
risks of academic failure in the current school system, because they are the ones who can put pressure on governments to request an increase in education budgets.
What is even more frightening than a lack of financial resources is the lack of interest that the population has regarding funding in education. Indeed, on March 26, 2015, journalist Philip Authier wrote a journal article that analyzes the 2015-16 provincial budget. He describes that schools boards will have to manage their schools with a $45 million cut, Cegeps will lose $21 million, while universities will have to face cuts of $10 million (Authier). Later, on May 2, the government announced new cuts of $20 million for the Cegep system. Meanwhile, forecasts from 18 Cegeps out of 48 predict that they will present, in June, a deficit budget for the year (Lecavalier). Unfortunately, it seems that this situation is not new. A 1995 academic research studied the impacts that the cuts made at the time had on both the Canadian population and the researchers. The conclusion of this study can be summarized as it follows: “when economic times get tough, it is very tempting to look at an institution like a university and call it elitist, and say it should not be at the top of the priority list” (Desruisseaux 31). Although it takes time to determine, using a scientific method, the Quebeckers’ current level of interest regarding universities, their reactions to the cuts that are being made represent a good hypothesis. Indeed, according to a survey by the firm CROP, if there was election, the current Liberal government will remain into power with 33 per cent of votes (Lessard). It shall not be interpreted that Philippe Couillard’s team is bad because they want to cut in education, but it means that universities must play a greater role in people’s lives. In 1995, Desruisseaux’s findings were that scholars need to show to Quebeckers, through mass medias, that their works are helpful to live in a more culturally, socially, and financially rich society (31). It thus implies that the system used
to communicate academic papers to the population was outdated twenty years ago and is still outdated today since nothing has changed that much. Claire McNicoll, vice-rector of the University of Montreal at the time, wrote that “researchers should be more responsive to public needs and should disseminate their findings more broadly” (Desruisseaux 31). This reflection is thoughtful because it is understandable that mass medias do not want to talk about academic researches that their readers do not have access to unless if they pay for it. That is not likely to reach enough people. Therefore, based on the concept of new power, making all Canadian academic researches available in a public database would be an interesting option to raise interest for universities (Heimans). If this resource was offered, everyone would benefit from it. For instance, it could be possible to create a web discussion to hear about the public’s opinion regarding the issues that are being written in academic papers. Another possibility could be that, if another researcher working on the same issue comes to either the same or the opposite conclusion, both could have their space on the Internet to share their research and to create a respectful debate on why their findings are or are not the same. With today’s technology, the possibilities are almost infinite. In brief, even if it is not certain that Quebeckers agree or not about the cuts in education, it does not make a doubt that the taxpayers should have the right to be informed about scholars’ work. From the researchers’ perspective, if they want to have access to more funding, they must demonstrate more clearly to Quebeckers what are the impacts of their work on the society, and thus, why they should continue to be supported.
It makes no doubt that investing more in education would be beneficial because it would allow more people from lower and middle income classes as well as minority and marginalized cultures to afford to go to university. The economic side claims that the only way to offer equal chances is by lowering, at least, tuition fees at the university level while keeping the same number of available places. In order to offset for lower fees, provincial government must invest more money in the education system. This would allow those who are talented but who have less financial resources than the average to be more willing to go to university. Sociology looks, for its part, at how minorities are in a system that does not allow them to share their educational experience with the dominant White Canadian culture. Indeed, many school principals from both public and private schools consider that all students are not different from each other. They do that because school administrators claim that they fail to have access to sufficient financial resources to meet the special needs of their pupils. Finally, a study from scholars working to improve education in Canada demonstrates that things did not changed a lot since 1995. Indeed, when faced to precarious economic times, the population is more likely to accept cuts in education, which is a short-term vision. To convince the government to invest more money in universities, scholars must show, through technology, that their researches are relevant and helpful for the Canadian society. Bottom line, as income disparities keep increasing, all of these evidences point out to the urgency to implement innovative and courageous policies to ensure the accessibility to every level of school. More adapted services would retain those from poorer neighborhoods and minority cultures from dropping school while the use of technology would constantly demonstrate to the population the importance of the studies that are being conducted in the country.
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Cukier, Katharine. “The ‘Gated Communities’ of Education in Quebec.” The Montreal Gazette. 3 April 2015. Web. 21 Mar. 2015.
Desruisseaux, Paul. "Hard Times in Canada." The Chronicle of Higher Education 41.42 (1995): 2. ProQuest. Web. 9 May 2015.
Dickson, V., W. Milne, and D. Murrell. “Who should pay for university education?” Canadian Public Policy 22.4 (1996): 315–329. Web. 27 April 2015.
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