Defending the right to education is, at the core, a fight that aims to build an equitable society. It is the struggle to recognize that education allows people to reach their full potential. Education develops a person’s skills and knowledge and perhaps, more importantly, education helps develop an understanding of the world we live in. As students, we believe that only through gaining such understanding can we hope to build a more equal and fair society. However, many barriers stand in the way of our access to education.
From a practical point of view, over 70 per cent of new jobs in Canada require some form of post-secondary education: university, college or skilled trades. At the same time that education is becoming increasingly necessary in the job market, it has also become more expensive.
The three largest obstacles to education? Tuition fees, student debt and government funding to education. Increasing tuition fees block a portion of Canada’s population from university and college, specifically people from low- and modest-income backgrounds.
The existence of these and other barriers are what drive students to mobilize and organize. In 2012, students worked to influence the public discourse towards the importance of funding public services and the campaign hit a punctuation mark on Wednesday, February 1, with a National Day of Action. We called on the government to reduce tuition fees, drop student debt and increase education funding, and students rallied in communities across the country.
Ensuring that the younger generation of Canadians have access to education is an essential part of creating a country where everyone has a chance at a decent life. It is also essential in raising awareness of the general population, ensuring that people have an understanding of the world they live in and what is required to make it better for everyone. In essence, providing accessible education is critical to the proper functioning of our democracy.
As students, we believe that education is a right. In Canada, we recognize the importance of education by fully funding primary and secondary education but create road blocks to accessing post-secondary education. At a time when post-secondary education has become as much of a requirement as high school education was several decades ago, we must continue to call for higher education to be a priority and to be adequately funded. It is the only way to strive to build a system that does not allow access to education based solely on socio-economic background.