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Can $200 Help Your Child “Catch Up”?

$200 Can Help Your Child Catch Up - Parents Canada

The Ontario government is giving parents $200 per school aged child ($250 for children with special needs) as part of a $365 million Plan to Catch Up. Catch up payments, according to the government, are meant to help offset the cost of closing learning gaps after two years of disrupted learning.

The announcement came upon the release of the 2021-2022 Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) results that showed the majority of Grade 6 students are failing to meet provincial math standards. Only 47 per cent of students passed the test.

While the Ford government likely expected parents to embrace the extra cash in their pocket, many have instead flooded social media calling out the plan’s flaws.

While there are no restrictions on what parents can use their $200 catch up payment towards, the government is encouraging parents to use the funds towards tutoring.

So, how far will $200 get you with tutoring services?

Vanessa Vakharia, CEO of The Math Guru, says while her tutoring business would directly benefit from these payments she wishes the government had invested the funds into schools instead. “I feel it’s a slap in the face of parents,” she says, adding the government once again appears to be putting the onus of education onto parents. Parents, she adds, who are time-strapped and may not know what to look for in a tutor for their child.

Tutoring, unlike public education, is an unregulated industry. Anyone can call themselves a tutor and put up an ad on Craigslist.

While $200 is a significant amount in many families, many parents and educators, including Vakharia argue, it’s insufficient to close any significant learning gaps. “The reality is a tutor in most of Ontario costs between $50-80 an hour,” she says. “The fact that the Ontario government is saying in two to four tutoring sessions your kid can catch up on everything they’ve lacked in the past two years shows how out of touch they are with the reality parents are facing or out of touch with what kids are facing inside the classroom.”

While Vakharia says tutoring can definitely help students, telling parents that $200 will help close the learning gap is setting parents and students up for failure. “Tutoring is a long-term commitment. In two sessions, you’re building a rapport. You’re not curing your math trauma,” she says.

What happens when a student attends two or three tutoring sessions, because the government says that’s all the need, and their grades are still not improving? “Don’t think that just because you do two sessions and you’re not getting a 90 that you’re a failure in math. This is just the beginning of the journey,” says Vakharia. “(But the government) is trying to trick kids into thinking this is all they need and all they deserve and they deserve so much more.”

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