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Ontario teens: school or jail?

Ontario may make it illegal to drop out of high school:

The Ontario government plans to introduce legislation that will require students to stay in school until they reach the age of 18, said the province’s minister of education Saturday.

If the rules aren’t followed, students would be forced back to their desks or sent to alternative learning programs by a court order, said Education Minister Gerard Kennedy. If that fails, a student could be ordered to spend time in jail, but that would be rare he adds.

The McGuinty government is spinning this as a “carrot, not stick” and an “exciting opportunity that strikes them as a real win for themselves”. Somehow I doubt most high school dropouts will see it that way.

Students need to want to stay in school because they believe in their future opportunities, not because it’s illegal not to. The Ontario government is taking an education system that clearly has problems, and trying to mask them with a new law that will do very little other than cause bureaucratic headaches.

In the meantime, Quebec – with our extraordinarily high high school dropout rate – is probably watching carefully. But with calls every so often to scrap the Cegep system, it’s hard to take the government’s commitment to postsecondary education seriously. Cegep, which is free and is open to “mature students” over 21 who never finished high school, provides a great second chance for dropouts to get back into the education system. It’s probably the best innovation that has ever come from a government. Scrapping it won’t solve our dropout problem, it will make the whole system worse.

The only way to reduce dropout rates is to provide students with clear incentives to stay in school. Both Quebec and Ontario are failing miserably on that score.

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • DaninVan 11.07.04, 10:43 PM

    This country needs a universal National Service Program. Not necessarily military, but that would be a strong option. NOBODY gets to enter university, college, the job market without completing their 18 month committment (or longer if you want to drop out of school…).No UI, no CPP acct.# , no Social Insurance # without proof you’ve completed your time.

  • segacs 11.08.04, 3:51 PM

    Oh yeah, there’s a vote-getting platform item…

  • Ikram 11.12.04, 4:11 PM

    What kind of incentives? Without a HS diploma, your job chances are really grim. That ought to be incentive enough.

    Are you thinking of paying people to stay in school?

    Also, why does Quebec have such a high dropout rate?

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