|PRINCIPLE OF FREE EDUCATION: CHALLENGING THE FUTURE OF THE PUBLIC|
|MONTREAL, NOVEMBER 30, 2017 - The five English and French school boards on the island of Montreal held a joint press conference on November 30 at John F. Kennedy High School in St. Michel. They did so to voice their concerns regarding an unbearable situation which jeopardizes the future of public schools and the students’ equal opportunity to succeed. Together, they demanded a substantive debate on the scope of free education in Quebec society.
According to their management, it is imperative to put the students’ needs back at the heart of the debate to facilitate their success in a vibrant and stimulating public school environment which reflects today’s society.
Free education as defined by the Education Act is at the core of the problem. It stipulates that education services, textbooks and instructional material must be free, except for some categories of material and supplies which are not bound by this principle.
The Education Act has been amended on several occasions since it was enacted, but the sections pertaining to the fees that can be charged have remained unchanged. Therefore, the current framework does not reflect today’s reality in our schools where various programs, field trips and enrichment activities are offered to meet students’ needs, and are requested and much appreciated by parents. Furthermore, the Education Act does not take into account the new technologies which have revolutionized the ways of doing things in the classroom as well as the material used by students.
“We must take action,” stated Diane Lamarche-Venne,chairman of the Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys. “The government must acknowledge that Quebec has changed since the Education Act was first adopted. The free education reform is an issue of concern to society as a whole and the legislation must be reviewed in order to allow public schools to fulfill their mission. That is precisely what the Minister seems to refuse to do right now.”
Added EMSB Chairman Angela Mancini: “Montreal’s reality makes it even more challenging. The socio-economic disparities are major. The city is faced with a high poverty rate and some very underprivileged areas, the greatest proportion of newcomers and a large number of private schools, making the current challenges even greater in Montreal.”
The five school boards on the Island of Montreal are: Commission scolaire de Montréal, Commission scolaire de la Pointe-de-l’Île, Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys, English Montreal School Board and Lester B. Pearson School Board.
For more information or to arrange an interview:
Michael J. Cohen