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Will Ontario find sustainable solutions to challenges in education?

Posted in View Point

Published on September 06, 2019 with No Comments

September is usually is wonderful time for all. Back to school is a amazing business time for those who have stocked good for “back to school,”, for parents who by now have run out of ideas to keep their kids busy at home. And not to forget the students, it is the time to move to the next grade and reconnect with the friends. However, this returning back to the school wasn’t the same mainly due to Ontario government who was caught napping at a crucial time.

Some of the major concerns that could have been handled before the schools were opened involve curriculum, teachers and even the school bus drivers. Ontario is changing math curriculum; however will that do anything to raise the match scores? Ontario has proposed that the new teachers will have to pass a test of mathematics by scoring at least 70 percent marks. The proposal has not found favour with the union that feels that these tests will do nothing to improve students’ math skills. Sensing that there could be a major issue on the same, the deputy education minister Nancy Naylor had to issue a memo stating the new test will be in place at the end of this upcoming academic year and will include both math question based on elementary and secondary school concepts.

At the same time, the parents are being reminded of the step taken by Premier Doug Ford as he was sworn in as the Premier of Ontario. He repealed the elementary sex education curriculum and reinstated the version from the year 1998. Again he unveiled a new Grade 1-8 curriculum, creating even more confusion for the parents and the students.

Ontario is also loaded with the problem of school bus drivers too. The school bus driver shortage has been an ongoing issue that impacts students and families across Ontario. Shortage of drivers leaves parents concerned as it concerns the safety of their kids. Ontario has come out with a stick and carrot approach.  Eligible school bus drivers could receive up to two separate retention bonuses of up to $1,000 (less applicable taxes) each, based on continuous employment over two periods between September to December 2019 and January to June 2020. With this Ontario government plans to reduce driver turnover. But can this be a long term solution? Perhaps not.

The biggest challenge comes with the fear that the school year could be interrupted by labour disputes. As the students head back to the schools, the contracts of five major unions representing the province’s teachers and education workers expired. Though the talks are continuing, however there is skepticism attached to the process. Whether the school year can continue without any sort of strike or lockout? The threat looms large as  55,000 education workers represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) warned in August that they were preparing to take job action this month. CUPE said the Ford government’s cuts to teaching positions and increases to classroom sizes have made the environment very difficult for talks toward a new contract.

The education year could not be same as any other year, as the Doug Ford government has a lot to handle and that too with the time too short for them. The Ontario government should have remembered that parents and students deserve predictability and deserve to have peace of mind as it’s the responsibility of the government that they protect the students future, keep them in the classrooms and invests in their potential.

 

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