Free textbooks and instructional materials
Students have the right to free textbooks and instructional materials required within the framework of activity programs and the teaching of programs of study. They have this right until the last day of the school calendar in the school year in which they reach 18 years of age, or 21 years of age in the case of handicapped persons within the meaning of the Act to secure handicapped persons in the exercise of their rights with a view to achieving social, school and workplace integration. The right to free textbooks and instructional materials applies to:
- Preschool activity programs
- Elementary education programs
- Secondary education compulsory programs or optional subjects for which a ministerial program has been established
- Local programs of study not included in a special school project
- The Prework Training and Training for a Semiskilled Trade programs
- Programs for students with an intellectual impairment
- Vocational training programs
An exception applies to students enrolled in adult education services.
Free instructional materials include, in particular, lab equipment, physical education equipment, art supplies and technological devices. The right to free instructional materials also applies to the following:
- Tools, machine tools, instruments, chemicals and other scientific and technological materials
- Balls, racquets, helmets and other physical education equipment
- Paint, pastels, clay and other art supplies
- Reeds for wind instruments, flutes and other musical instruments
- Novels and picture books, as well as reference materials such as dictionaries, grammar guides, atlases, guides and encyclopedias, whatever the medium
- A school cannot claim that asking students to highlight or annotate passages in a novel gives it the right to require payment for such novel. The school can ask students to use other means to ensure that the novels are reusable.
- Novels are covered by the right to free instructional materials even if they are required within the scope of a special school project.
- Photocopied texts, reproductions of copyrighted material such as sheet music and any other reprographic material that replaces or supplements a textbook
- Solid and geometric form kits, counters, base 10 kits, dice, card games and other manipulatives
- Modelling clay, wood, plaster and similar materials
- Computers, laptops, tablets, technological applications, graphing calculators, earphones and other technological tools
- The technological applications in question are those used for the same purpose as textbooks. This category also includes computer software suites.
- When a school chooses to use a computer or tablet for teaching or learning, the devices must be provided free of charge when students are required to use them in order to learn at school. If these devices are required for specific learning within the scope of a special school project (e.g. robotics or programming), they may be subject to a financial contribution from parents.
- Funds are allocated in the budgetary rules for students with handicaps, social maladjustments or learning difficulties who require technological learning aids. No financial contribution may be required from parents for these aids.
- Protective helmets, safety glasses, hairnets and other protective items
- Sensory stimulation material intended in particular for students with handicaps, social maladjustments or learning disabilities
- Food is sometimes used as positive reinforcement for students with handicaps. Since food is not an instructional material, it is not covered by the right to free instructional materials.
Maintenance costs for free instructional materials are not covered.
For hygiene purposes, parents may decide to buy some of the above items for their child at their own expense, but the school cannot require them to do so.
Clarifications concerning the right to free non-instructional materials
The school boards’ budgetary rules include funds allocated for the organization of services. As a result, no financial contribution may be required from parents for the following materials:
- Materials for the organization of the classroom or the school, such as bins, locker shelves, storage boxes and tennis balls to be attached to the legs of chairs
- Items to be supplied for health or hygiene reasons, such as paper tissues, wipes, cleaning products and disinfecting products for music instruments
Parents may choose to purchase certain items for their child, but the school cannot require them to do so. For example, parents may decide to buy a folding shelf for their child’s locker to help the child organize their personal belongings. The school cannot require parents to purchase such shelves.
The list included in the regulation is not exhaustive. Similar items can be added to the examples listed under each category.
Access to bibliographical and documentary resources
The Education Act stipulates that school boards must ensure that schools provide students, free of charge, with the textbooks and instructional materials used for the teaching of the programs of study. School boards must also provide students with free access to bibliographical and documentary resources such as books and encyclopedias. Schools cannot require a financial contribution for the library card providing access to these resources.