Special Report: Education

To Reduce Inequality, Start Early

Implementing a better curriculum and education system will help combat poverty and inequality.

By Sarah Warry-Poljanski
Published April 11, 2016

In Ontario, we are watching the rate of poverty, inequity, and inequality grow faster and higher than in previous times. Studies and statistics have clearly and continuously indicated a correlation between an individual's level of education and their quality of life.

Statistics show that those with higher levels of education are more likely to acquire better paying jobs, and secure more steady employment. Individuals with higher incomes also tend to have a better quality of life, live longer, and are healthier in general.

In today's society, much of our focus falls on to reactive based "solutions" towards poverty. It is very rare that we see a large range of preventative measures being practiced to tackle the issues of poverty before they start.

In Ontario, and the rest of Canada, we are at liberty to be able to take advantage of and reform our education system to do just this.

The government of Ontario has recently issued plans to remove and/or lower tuition for students who come from lower income families. This initiative, which if planned for and executed properly, may alleviate some of the roadblocks that students face when trying to move forward and build better lives for themselves.

What the Ontario Government is missing, however, is that before we solely focus on post-secondary education as a means of alleviating poverty, we should also incorporate a plan for the students in the elementary and secondary levels as well.

A steady foundation needs to be laid for our children to build on, and a concrete education should be priority number one.

A heavy emphasis should be placed on reading, writing, and basic arithmetic more than anything else during the early elementary years. After mastering these skills, students will be able to successfully move on to other areas of math and language in a steady state of succession.

By mastering each skill one after the other, it will help strengthen their skills and offer a better understanding of the operations and formulas being taught and used.

After offering strong skill sets in math and language, students should move on to areas such as science and technology, geography and history, arts and music, health and physical education, civics and humanities, and hopefully a re-introduction of home economics and mechanical studies. Programming in finances wouldn't hurt either.

With a wholesome well-rounded education offered during the elementary and secondary grades, students will then be able to move forward with ease when taking more in-depth courses and making choices for their career paths. Entry into post-secondary education, the trades, entrepreneurship, and/or employment should be more easily attained after graduation.

Under this model, if planned and executed properly, and with moderate oversight and changes when needed, the rate of poverty may be heavily diminished. When the need for reactive programming in education and skills training is lowered, more focus and larger financial commitments can be made in the areas of addiction and mental health, and other healthcare services.

By tying in and focusing on the entirety of poverty and the issues which create it, we can better solve the issues before they start and have a clearer picture of what to do in reactive situations.

So before we give ourselves a pat on the back because of the proposed changes coming, we need to humble ourselves and realize this is just the beginning to a long road ahead.

Sarah Warry-Poljanski is a local education, political, and social activist and ran in the 2014 election for public trustee. She is the mother of two school-aged children. You can follow her on twitter @sarahwpoljanski.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted April 11, 2016 at 13:34:10

we need to humble ourselves and realize this is just the begging

I am waiting for our old friend Capitalist to come along and cry "hear, hear!"

:)

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted April 11, 2016 at 13:36:10

Statistics show that those with higher levels of education are more likely to acquire better paying jobs, and secure more steady employment. Individuals with higher incomes also tend to have a better quality of life, live longer, and are healthier in general.

In today's society, much of our focus falls on to reactive based "solutions" towards poverty. It is very rare that we see a large range of preventative measures being practiced to tackle the issues of poverty before they start.

Alas, that the problem were simply that no-one had thought that we need to address poverty through education at a young age instead of trying to reform the habits of adults: but the history of modern educational reform begins with this observation in the late 1700s.

Comment edited by moylek on 2016-04-11 13:36:46

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By highasageorgiapine (registered) | Posted April 11, 2016 at 14:44:02

i am highly in favour of continued modernization of our education system at all levels to ensure a highly educated citizenry in perpetuity.

i agree that we can alleviate poverty through early education initiatives. the issue is that we actually have quite a good education system by developed world standards, and despite having the most educated workforce in our history middle-class wages remain essentially stagnant when accounting for inflation. additionally, class mobility decreased over the late 20th century until now. despite some half-hearted measures from our government to combat the rising cost of post-secondary education, most individuals graduating will carry a significant debt burden and fierce competition for work in an economy that has poorly aligned itself with the education and skills of the workforce.

funding should be applied to make sure post-secondary education is free, which would contribute greatly to reducing inequality by not only decreasing a significant barrier to entry for impoverished families and individuals, but also reducing debt burden for those who graduate. having a generation of individuals who are contributing a sizable portion of their income to debt servicing is non-productive economically.

beyond that, stronger employment legislation to prevent exploitation we observe in unpaid internships and many aspects of the "sharing economy" would greatly enhance worker protection and reduce inequality by removing barriers to accessing well-paying, secure employment

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted April 11, 2016 at 15:40:39 in reply to Comment 117638

i agree that we can alleviate poverty through early education initiatives.

And I insist again that we have been trying to do this for more than 200 years with only partial success.

Educational attainment correlates with poverty, yes, but it's not a simple causal relationship. Poor education is one a cluster of outcomes which results from certain kinds of upbringings. To simply grossly: a good education is more of an effect than a cause.

I agree without qualification that a good education must be made available to everyone, but I disagree that the availability of a good education will make the difference for all kids.

And recognizing this really matters. For if we keep pursuing the dream of finding just the right educational strategy which will let kids of all sorts of backgrounds achieve the same quality of education we are dooming ourself to very, very expensive failure generation after generation.

I've been reading a number of books about the history of popular education lately ... an experience which leaves me not cynical but certainly wary of optimism.

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By Sarah WP (anonymous) | Posted April 11, 2016 at 15:02:09

Kennith, my apologies:

The last bit should say "So before we give ourselves a pat on the back because of the proposed changes coming, we need to humble ourselves and realize this is just the *beginning* to a long journey.

If anyone has taken a look at the current curriculum in use, you would see it's highly faulty. Hence the need for the government's proposed 60 million dollar intervention to deal with the math crisis. EQAO scores are plummeting, and it only points to a bad curriculum.

Our current crisis in the job market can only be blamed on a government who has allowed most manufacturing and other companies that offer well paying occupations, to leave our province. Regardless of left or right wing politics and "class warfare", the system is and has always been designed to fail people who need services, and other options need to be explored. That's all I am implying. I've worked in the system and I witnessed it first hand.

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted April 12, 2016 at 05:22:03

start early-at home-instill character, provide discipline, motivation and encouragement. Practice accountability. There is no substitute for effective role models, and this should not be an educators primary responsibility.

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By What (anonymous) | Posted April 12, 2016 at 08:43:52 in reply to Comment 117649

You cannot induce collective responsibility by centering on individual responsibility. And how can you excuse individual negligence if you can't blame anyone, or better, everyone else.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted April 12, 2016 at 09:30:34 in reply to Comment 117650

You cannot induce collective responsibility by centering on individual responsibility.

Why not? Is it unjust? mean? demonstrably ineffective?

And how do you induce collective responsibility without inducing personal responsibility? What does that look like?

Individual responsibility is correlated with collective responsibility, undeniably: one can simply look at the sorts of people who tend to volunteer, get involved, organize charities, and go into local politics ... generally what you would call "responsible" people (if not necessarily in all ways admirable). I speak of generalities and tendencies only, of course.

It certainly feels to me as if a sense of personal responsibility comes first, and responsibility for the group comes afterwards - in general; for most people; speaking broadly.

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By Crispy (registered) | Posted April 13, 2016 at 08:21:25 in reply to Comment 117654

Single parent families have a higher incidence of poverty. If men and women made more responsible choices and waited until they were in a committed long term relationship to have children, this would help reduce poverty, and in particular child poverty and all of the social ills that come along with that. The cost of this: better choices and contraception.

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By Ithink (anonymous) | Posted April 12, 2016 at 12:08:48 in reply to Comment 117654

I think the writer was being sarcastic.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted April 12, 2016 at 16:09:31 in reply to Comment 117658

I think the writer was being sarcastic.

You may well be correct - that certainly helps explain why I couldn't quite make sense of the post :)

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