Back to school in Canada: not fun for everyone

I have a new post up at Global Comment

image Labour Day is the last long weekend of the summer and the time in which many reflect upon the barbecues and fun times that they had with friends and family. For Canadian parents, it is often bittersweet, because it signals the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year. Some will be filled with sadness as they watch their little one get on the school bus for the first time, and those with older children will be giddy with glee as they make lunches and prepare to bicker about homework.

Being able to approach the school year as merely a matter of resetting schedules is dependent upon existing with certain class privileges, something which is rarely acknowledged. If you happen to live in a neighbourhood with a school you find unacceptable, for example, you must arrange for independent transportation to have your child attend another school. If you decide to go with a French core school, like we did, you must have the financial resources to pay for a year of pre-education. At a cost of one hundred and twenty five dollars per week, this can be out of the price range of many working class families. When we consider that learning to speak, read, and write French fluently provides various job opportunities in Canada, this effectively shuts many poor Anglophone students out.

Even though public education is free through the end of high school, a parent must still provide: pens, paper, pencils, calculators, a 3 hole punch, crayons, backpacks, lunch sacks, rulers, highlighters, notebooks, binders and erasers. The average backpack costs approximately twelve to fourteen dollars and then the other expenses cumulatively retail between twenty to thirty dollars. There was a time when all of these items were provided by the school, but with cutbacks in the education budget parents are now expected to pick up the slack.

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