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Jackson, J. - Towards Equity

John J. Jackson, Canada

John J. Jackson is a Professor in the School of Public Administration at the University of Victoria, Victoria BC, Canada, V8W 2Y2. He is a former school teacher (ten years) and Dean of Education. Email:

Some interesting developments are evolving in some parts of Canada, which may broadly lead to more equity in publicly-funded school systems.

As The Globe and Mail (1998) reported,

‘In Toronto, classism has joined sexism and racism on the equity curriculum. The impetus for this state of affairs stems from the fact that students judge each other every day by the clothing they wear - to determine whether they are cool or not. And this has put financial pressure on parents, who can ill-afford it; as well, it has accentuated class distinctions between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’.’

The 'Look Alike' Trend
According to the President of the Canadian School Boards' Association, the broad issue has been on school boards' agendas across the country. Some have now adopted simple school uniforms so that everyone looks equal. Apparently, the trend is already developing in the US where the New York City Board of Education is the most recent one considering adopting uniforms to help eradicate difference between rich and poor students. It is reported that parents like the idea but many students think it will be an uphill battle. Another reason for wanting simple uniforms is that students wearing trench coats have sometimes been misunderstood in some recent school shootings.

A significant equity-related issue concerns changes in public schools previously divided on religious grounds. On July 1, 1998 Quebec's 159 religious school boards (138 Catholic, eighteen Protestant, and three Native) were replaced by 72 linguistic boards (sixty francophone, nine anglophone, and three Native). The reform affects 1.1 million students and is meant to produce a ‘leaner’ system which is intended to save taxpayers $100 million over five years.

Not everyone believes the transition will produce such financial savings because of administrative and political problems.

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