Doug Ford Proposes Sweeping Changes to Education in Ontario

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Doug Ford’s government has proposed some major changes to education in the province, and will be lifting cap sizes on elementary and high school classes.

It also announced proposed changes for the sexual education curriculum and a ban on cell phones in classrooms.

The province says cellphone use during instructional time will be permitted for educational purposes, for health and medical purposes and to support students with special education needs.

Today, Minister of Education, Lisa Thompson, announced that “students and parents in Ontario can look forward to the implementation of stronger math, STEM, and financial literacy curricula, improved skilled trades opportunities, and a province-wide ban on cellphones in the classroom.”

Thompson said the changes are part of the Ontario government’s ‘Education that Works for You’ initiative.

This is our plan to protect a sustainable world-class education system for the students of today and the future,” said Thompson. “We will make sure our students are leaving school with the skills they need to build good lives, families and careers right here in Ontario, while ensuring the system is both fiscally sustainable and respectful of parents.”

Thompson said the changes are being made in response to requests from parents.

Shortly after we came to office we did what the previous government had been afraid to do - and threw the doors open to real, meaningful public and parental input into our education system,” said Thompson.

We heard from more than 72,000 parents, teachers, students, employers and organizations making this the largest consultation of its kind in Ontario history. The people told us what wasn’t working and what we need to protect.”

According to the province, the plan would include:

  • Modernizing classrooms by expanding broadband, developing a new policy that will ban the use of cellphones during class except for educational purposes and modernizing the approach to assessment and evaluation with a renewed focus on equity across the province.
  • Introducing changes to education funding that keep resources focused on students in the classroom.
  • Supporting teacher mobility, greater transparency, fairness, consistency and accountability to school board hiring practices of teachers.
  • Maintaining class sizes for Kindergarten to Grade 3, establishing a consistent approach to class sizes for grades 4 to 8 and aligning secondary class sizes more closely with other Canadian jurisdictions, while introducing a new approach to e-learning and reducing pressure on school boards to put students in portables and split classes.

Curriculum reform will consist of:

  • A new math curriculum that will focus on math fundamentals for all grades;
  • A renewed focus on STEM, skilled trades and financial literacy

As far as sexual education goes, the province is promising a “modern and age-appropriate Health and Physical Education curriculum that will keep students safe.” Much like the previous Liberal government, parents will be able to keep their children from learning about crucially important topics such as sexual health and gender identity if they so choose. Online modules will be available for parents who want to discuss—or not discuss—sexual health topics with their children.

According to the province, students will learn about mental health in grades 1 to 3, as well as healthy eating; personal safety; caring behaviours and preventing bullying. In grade 1, students will also learn the proper names of body parts, including genitalia.

The province says students will also begin to learn knowledge and skills on important topics like building positive body image (grades 2 and 3), consent (grades 2 and 3), family and healthy relationships (grade 2) and online safety (grades 2 and 3).

Students will also learn about puberty (grades 4 to 6), sexual reproduction (Grade 5) and sexual orientation (grades 5 and 6). Students in grades 4-6 will also learn about addiction and legal and illegal substances, and will be taught the dangers of opioid addiction.

Older students will learn about abstinence (grades 7 and 8), sexting (Grade 7), contraception (grades 7 and 8), tolerance and respect (grades 7 and 8), intercourse (grades 7 and 8), and sexually transmitted infections (grades 7 and 8).

Additionally, in the second half of the Grade 8 school year, students will learn about gender identity and gender expression.

The province says it is committed to discussing the key elements of the proposed plan, including hiring practices and class sizes, through a consultation process that allows partners to provide the benefit of their expertise, experience and ideas.

Some critics say these changes could lead to bloated class sizes and potential job losses.

The province says the consultation that informed the changes included more than 72,000 engagements across three different consultation channels, which included an open submission form, online survey and telephone town halls held in every region of the province.

We will continue to look for better ways to improve student learning. We will continue to adapt curriculum to address the needs of the modern world. And we will continue to take responsibility for every dollar spent,” said Thompson. “Together we will build on a system that supports careers, promotes well-being and prepares every student for the future.”

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