Local schools perpetuate social inequality says survey
By Ulli Diemer Seven News, August 28, 1976
The more money your parents earn, the better you are likely to do in school.
This is the conclusion of a massive study of the Toronto school population just released by the Board of Education.
The report, the Every Student Survey, contains statistics based on questionnaries filled out by almost every student in every public school and institution in the City of Toronto (not including the other five boroughs in Metro.) It looks at the relationship between ethnic origin, mother tongue, socio-economic status, and achievement in school, and finds that, rather than being places of equality and equal opportunity, the schools actually serve to pass on and perpetuate the inequalities of society.
Commenting on the report, which he called “disturbing” in part, Ward 7 school trustee and Board Chairman Gord Cressy acknowledged that “the survey makes it clear that education is not the great equalizing force that it was supposed to be.”
“The fact is,” says Cressy, “that the higher up you are on the social scale, the better you’re likely to do at school. For a school system like ours, where almost half our students are in the lowest occupational group and where half our schools are designated ‘inner-cityrsquo;, that is a very sad state of affairs.
“Despite the efforts of our dedicated teachers, the fact remains that the better the job your parents have, the more chance you have of doing well at school,” says Cressy.
Cressy said he was also disturbed to find that children whose parents are in the lowest employment bracket have six times as much chance as children from the highest bracket of being in special programs for students with behavioural or educational problems.
Another group that doesn’t fare as well as it might in school is children coming from mother-only homes. One student in seven falls into this group.
In Ward 7, problems pinpointed by the report seem to be even more acute.
The report found that in the system as a whole one student in nine comes from a home where the head of the household was not employed (this category covers people on welfare, mother’s allowance, pensions, unemployed, etc.) In Ward 7, the rate is more than double the city average: almost one student in four comes from this kind of a home in the ward.
The report shows that, on the average, these children are least likely to do well in school. With 23% of its children coming from this group, Ward 7 leads the city. At the other extreme, Ward 11 has only 3% coming from this group.
The report also shows that the ethnic make-up of the city, and of Ward 7, has changed significantly in the last few years. Thirty per cent of Toronto public school students were born outside of Canada. About 50% have first languages other than English.
In Ward 7, sizeable groups of students with Chinese, Greek, West Indian, East Indian, Portuguese, and Italian backgrounds are making their presence felt in the schools.
This, together with the disadvantages faced by students from the lower economic brackets, is putting extra strain on the schools, especially in this area.
According to Cressy, the school board is trying to deal with the problems. “We are spending $100,000 this summer re-writing school courses to take into account the backgrounds of our students,” he says. But he complains that higher levels of government are not willing to provide assistance, while the Metro School Board has actually forced Toronto to cut the number of staff teaching English as a second language, despite the fact that the number of students with first languages other than English continues to increase.
This article was published in Seven News, Volume 7, Number 5, August 28, 1976