Doug Ford’s Vision about Ontario’s Education System
By: Liza Ilin
On the morning of March 15, 2019, Doug Ford announced his initial plan to make several funding cuts in the province of Ontario, including components of the education system.
His government revealed that classroom sizes, the Health curriculum and the style of learning, would all undergo significant changes: “Our plan will modernize the classroom, protect the future of the education system and ensure that Ontario students will acquire the skills they need to build successful lives, families and businesses right here in Ontario,” said Education Minister Lisa Thompson, who works for Ford’s government.
In the revised elementary school curriculum, sexual orientation would be taught at an earlier time (Grade 5), whereas Gender Identity would become a mandatory topic in Grade 8.
In addition to adjusting the timing of certain subjects in a classroom setting, this upgraded curriculum would more thoroughly address mental health and social-emotional adaptability skills, at each stage of development. Furthermore, modules on the causes of concussion, prevention and obtaining consent from a physician would be utilized, as well as the safety of cannabis products would be more thoroughly explored.
However, the government angered teachers, when it was announced that the average high school class size would increase from 22 to 28, a very remarkable jump. Students would also be obliged to take four online courses in order to graduate. This decision was soon after adjusted in compliance with the education unions, as Education Minister, Stephen, Lecce offered to downscale the class size target to 25. He also proposed the requirement of only two online classes prior to graduation.
On the opposing side, OSSTF’s (Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation) president Harvey Bischof, declared that this change would ultimately result in the loss of some 5,000 teaching jobs.
As such, the biggest challenge Ford’s government would face throughout the 2019/2020 school year would be getting contract deals with the three big teachers’ unions. These include the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA). Up to date, there have already been several one-day walkout strikes for the respective unions. And so, the question remains: can the government of Ontario reach a tentative agreement with all three teacher’s unions?
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