One of Canada’s foremost educators and an international leader in the field of education, Dr. Avis Glaze, says it’s time Canada adopted a basic income guarantee policy.
Glaze — Ontario’s first Chief Student Achievement Officer and founding CEO of the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat – says Canada must address the issue of poverty by addressing the challenge at its source — income.
“To ensure students’ life chances are not truncated because of poverty, for me, as an educator, it’s absolutely essential that public policy addresses the issue of parental income,” Glaze tells Leaders and Legacies.
She says she often thinks of the well-known quote from social justice thinker, R. W. Connell: “Statistically speaking, the best advice I would give to a poor child eager to get ahead in education is to choose richer parents.”
Glaze, who pioneered character education among other education innovations in Canada, says if we want to ensure Canada is a tapestry of safe and healthy places to live, work and raise our children, “then we must address poverty in a systematic and intentional manner.”
“A basic income would be essential if we want to close achievement gaps,” says Glaze. “From an educational perspective, this seems to be one of the most intractable issues in education, not only in Canada, but internationally.”
Now head of her own consulting company, Edu-quest International Inc., Glaze says she has always believed that educators do meaningful work.
“Ultimately, they contribute to nation building.”
To that end, she says she has always encouraged her colleagues in education to speak out more about social policy.
“Let’s take principals, for example. Many studies show they are a respected group in society. When I speak to them, I ask ‘how are you engaging in political action?’”
Glaze says most educators would not describe themselves as “political.” She says there are many reasons for this. Many do not speak directly to the media. They have school trustees and communications departments who speak on behalf of the school district.
“But if we think about politics as the ability to influence decision making and to enhance life chances of our students, we must become more political, seeking every opportunity to bend the ears of politicians.”
Glaze, as Ontario’s first Chief Student Achievement Officer and founding CEO of the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, played a pivotal role in improving student achievement in Ontario schools.
She says that regardless of what people say about education from a general perspective, they tend to like their local school and their local principals and teachers. So it’s incumbent upon community leaders like them to advocate for social policy changes that would help their students.
A sought-after speaker in education across the globe, Glaze has travelled extensively and sees the contrast between Scandinavian schools, as an example, and those of other countries. While there is no basic income in Scandinavian nations, Finland is currently setting up a pilot project. As well, these countries do come the closest to providing strong supports for parents and children compared to other countries.
“That’s a matter of public policy…and so obviously public policy can make a difference,” Glaze says.
“While I admire the teachers and principals who are still spending their own money to help their needy students…we need to address the totality of the needs of children as a matter of public policy,” Glaze notes.
Long an advocate of business-education partnerships, Glaze says this doesn’t mean that schools or school systems should be in the lurch if they don’t have the businesses, industries or groups that support their needs, such as breakfast programs.
“And, in any event, these partnerships, though very important, do not address the issue of family incomes,” she says.
Glaze says there must be much better integration at the policy level between departments within governments. For instance, education and social policy, or health, economics and education.
“Having silos does not contribute to a problem that is multifaceted in nature. Wherever there are points of natural intersection, we must be prepared to build upon what we have already achieved, and to redouble our efforts to create a multi-pronged, cross-disciplinary focus on the needs of children in general, and those who live in poverty, in particular.”
Glaze says Canada can continue to be an example to the world of what it takes to realize one of the promises of its diversity — raising the bar for all children and closing achievement gaps.
“Within the social determinants of health, education and income are perhaps the most powerful,” says Glaze. “So addressing the issue of basic income would help tremendously.”