This debate has been going on for some time now about the issue of the length of the school year, as it's sometimes called. It has lead to all kinds of invidious comparisons between countries and provinces and states, as to the quality and the standard of education that exists in those jurisdictions. Some people have tried to make the correlation between the length of the school year and the achievements of the students. Japan, for example, which has a very long school year, a higher number of days, has a very high achievement rate among its students. So the public is lead to believe that if you're in school for 230 days a year, then you're going to get a higher standard of education. I just use that as an example.
But there have been all kinds of debates in the professional educational journals taking one side or the other. This has lead to this whole debate about how you can compare jurisdictions, because the argument is made that although an institution may be in operation for so many days, when you look at the number of hours, they are actually comparable. You're mislead into believing that the days really make a difference.
I recognize that, from the very beginning, we have specified hours of instruction for different levels and so on, especially at the high school level where you're doing things for credit. But the reason the committee wanted to put something in the act which was demonstratable was it and would show the public that this system is going to have children going to school for so many days in the year -- and it's a modest number compared with the numbers that you hear reported in the professional press -- that this is very modest number of days compared to jurisdictions that require children to go to school; in many cases, for more than 200 days in a year.
So I think that since we've made a commitment to comparable standards, then I think the obligation was that we put something in there to give some assurance to the public that this system will have children going to school for a minimum number of days so that you don't get this thrown at you; that our system is substandard, it's wide open; therefore, we continue to operate a substandard, inferior education system where kids don't have to go to school the same as they do everywhere else. It's much more up in the air, much more flexible and so on. Having something definite in the act seems to be one of the ways of at least assuring the public that our students do in fact have a minimum number of days when they would be going to school to get instruction.
The general perception of the public is that over the last 30 years, for all kinds of reasons, the length of the school year has diminished. It's getting shorter and shorter and shorter. It has lead to all this debate about the quality of education, standards, comparability of systems, and you want to avoid doing that as much as you possibly can.
I'm just wondering how 190 days would translate, since the department will have had some notion that this was coming; whether they've looked at the impact of having a minimum number. Could we do a smaller number than 190? Because we've been told already that in our system under the current act, we have kind of a flexible system where already schools are only doing 170. This is what we've been told. So is there some minimum number we could put in there so at least the public will know that in our system, we do have schools in operation in a way that will give the public some confidence that we're not too much different in the way we approach at least the exposure of children to the instructional program to what exists elsewhere in the country?
To be a little bit lighthearted, Mr. Chairman, I don't believe that we've ever considered paying teachers by the hour or by the minute. They're paid to work for a year, and they're paid over 12 months, I believe. And there is some expectation that they will be on duty for so many days in the year. It's very hard to see from this act when anybody would be on duty, when any school would be in operation. So I would like to ask the Minister, through you, Mr. Chairman, because I'm out of touch -- I have to be a bit confessional here -- with the way in which we keep records now.
I know at one time, you had the school year and they would specify the particular days in which a school would be in operation; so that you would know that the legal obligation that a parent has to send their kids to that school is over that certain period of time. If it's 170 days, or longer, is there a way that that is specified in the register, so you know that the legal obligations are met by having that child go to that school on the days specified?
As I understand it, that's a legal requirement under this act. Compulsory education exists in this system and we have an obligation to do it because of all the commitments we've made to make sure that children are going to school in the important, formative years. So, for the benefit of Members, Mr. Chairman, I think it would be useful if we did get a response to the issue raised by Mrs. Marie-Jewell earlier on about how we're going to record all of this.
In each school, will there be different days in which kids have to go to school, and will that be spelled out ahead of time so that we all know that in this jurisdiction, or in a certain district, kids will be expected to be in school on certain days during the school calendar year? Thank you, Mr. Chairman.