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Whither Education? Aiming too high!

Posted in Featured, View Point

Published on May 13, 2019 with No Comments

Premier Doug Ford came to power with a promise of making sustainable changes in education. Over the last few weeks, the provincial government in Ontario is trying to make certain changes in schools and it has backed those proposal with certain data and proposals. The government has focused on Number of Students in a Class, Back to basics Math, A ban on cellphones, More emphasis on skilled trades etc.

The statement from the government that Ontario will still have the lowest class sizes in the country has caught the fancy of the Ontarians as some of the steps proposed are far away from the target.  The statement was – “As I said earlier, it’s not about class sizes, because we will have the lowest class size in the entire country. If you look at B.C., it has 30 to a class. Quebec has 32. If you look at Alberta, Saskatchewan, P.E.I., they have no cap. We’re proposing 28. We will still be the lowest in high school anywhere in the entire country.” The proposal is marred with controversy.  The average size of a high school class will rise to 28 from 22. High school students will also be required to take four of their 30 credits online, where the average class size will be 35. Students in Grades 4 to 8 will see their classes increase by about one student to an average of 24.5. While the government proposes to increase the number of students in the class, it is trying to aim at multiple targets. Conservatives have been firm on reducing the spending and trimming the deficit and larger classes with help the Ontario government to inch closer to one of its objective. Larger classes will save the Ontario government $851 million over the next four years, which could be making a major contribution to the Conservatives’ pledge.

At the same time, Education Minister Lisa Thompson has stressed that the quality of teaching, not class size, is the most important indicator of student success. She’s suggested that larger classes will teach students resilience and better prepare them for college, university or the world of work. However, the government’s assertion that quality of teaching would be a benchmark will take a hit, as about 3,745 teaching positions will be eliminated by attrition. That too when more than ten thousand of teachers certified by Ontario School of Teachers are waiting to be absorbed in schools in Ontario.  That would mean adding to the unemployment figures of Ontario.

Other challenge that the government would face is concerning the school class size of 28. Even when the government is claiming that it would increase the class sizes, it still claims that the number of students in a class would be lowest in the country. Will that be the lowest in the country?

As per to the B.C. Ministry of Education- The average size of classes for students in Grades 8 to 12 is 22.1 this school year, The province has invested in 4,000 new teaching positions over the last two years and class sizes in all grades have been reduced, claims the ministry at its website. 

The average class size in Grades 10 to 12 was 23.2 for the 2017-18 school year, according to the Alberta Education Ministry website. Even in Price Edward Island, The average size of classes in Grades 10 to 12 this school year is 20.1 students. While these statistics do defy the logic on which the Ontario government is trying to work upon. And hence attaining the lowest class room size with average 28 students in each class appear far from reality.

However, the impact of increasing the class sizes while limiting it to 28, has had its impact.  The Peel District School Board has given surplus notices to 176 elementary and 193 secondary teachers and other boards have followed suit.

The change in policy is certainly not a pragmatic approach and is not going to deliver results in long run. Ontario government still needs to look at the data and facts before aiming too high.


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