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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 17, Number 1, September 2004

Youth voices on child labour

A co-operative learning strategy

These results are summarized from an activity undertaken with eight CAPP 10 classes and one Grade 8 English class in May 2004 at Templeton Secondary School, Vancouver. Students were first given very brief factual information about Bill 37 and then asked to "take a stand" on the statement—Twelve-year-olds should be allowed to work.

Students were asked to stand together with peers who shared the same position on the statement and to discuss their reasons for their position. Next, they circulated around the room to present their own position and to listen with respect to peers with differing positions. Having broadened their perspectives on the statement, they returned to their original groups to create a poster listing they key arguments for their position. The entire class then heard a summative report from a representative of each group. This was followed by an individual survey that allowed each student to reflect on her or his work experiences to date and to provide their opinions/ comments on the issue.

This activity is adapted from a co-operative learning strategy called "Tackling a Statement" from Global Teacher, Global Learner by Graham Pike and David Selby (1988).

"Twelve-year-olds should be allowed to work."

Strongly Agree

  • Better for future jobs

  • Give them life experiences
  • Have their own money
  • If they are not being forced to work then they should be allowed to work
  • Make them more mature/ independent
  • Need money for extra clothes
  • Not have to depend on parents
  • Saving up for a car and future
  • They could help their family
  • Understand society
  • Will teach them responsibility/ commitment


  • Allowance is not the only way to make money anymore!
  • Gain a realistic view of life
  • Gain experience
  • Get out in the world, meet new people, make new friends
  • If it is by choice, not by force
  • Just because you are young doesn’t mean you don’t have the ability to work
  • Learn from older workers
  • Learn responsibility/maturity
  • New opportunities
  • Some kids need to spend their time more wisely and not get in trouble
  • Some low-income families need money to help pay bills
  • There would be more workers and money in the economy
  • They now have workers’ rights
  • They would learn self discipline
  • Why not, this is a free country?

Not Sure

  • These groups were asked to brainstorm pros and cons. Their ideas have been integrated into the agree and disagree categories.


  • Could get the worst, most
  • Could miss a lot of school
  • Disrespected in the workplace
  • Easier to exploit children than teens
  • Hazardous work conditions, may get injured or killed
  • Imbalanced development in younger children
  • Kids might get hurt or stressed out
  • Less social and recreational time with peers
  • May be exposed to drugs and bad people and learn bad habits
  • May drop out of school
  • May feel too responsible
  • May not be mature enough to take responsibility
  • Money might open the door to all sorts of expensive things they shouldn’t be using yet
  • No time for homework
  • No time for sleep
  • Should be enjoying their childhood
  • Should not have to support their family
  • Take jobs away from older, more qualified people who need them
  • They could be forced to work by their parents
  • Too small, too young, may not be competent
  • What is the reason for them wanting to work in the first place?
  • Won’t be properly paid
  • Would not know how to react under pressure or in dangerous situation (e.g., robbery) dangerous jobs and get ripped off

Strongly Disagree

  • Already have too many things happening in their lives
  • Can they handle their emotions–how would they treat customers?
  • Child abuse/sexual abuse could happen
  • Could be corrupted/exposed to adult drug and alcohol use
  • Could increase runaways
  • Do they have the attention spans for long hours?
  • Does not teach kids the value of money/the idea of money could go to their heads/may give the message that money matters most
  • Fall into peer pressure easily
  • Fewer jobs to go around
  • May drop out of school to work more
  • Not mature enough/going through puberty/not ready
  • Not mature/responsible enough
  • Shouldn’t the parent provide?
  • Studies will be affected
  • Takes jobs from older teens
  • The transition from elementary to high school is enough
  • They have less time to be kids/grow up too fast/let kids be kids, don’t make them grow up too fast
  • Too stressful
  • Unhealthy: lack of sleep, poor work environment/dangerous
  • Unions: what do they feel?
  • Using children to do adult work is child labour.
  • What if the parents have broken up? Only one needs to sign.
– Marian Dodds

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