COLUMN: Education system has many woes

SOUTH DUNDAS — The publicly-funded education system in Ontario has many woes, that can be boiled down to four main issues. Each of these are easily solved, but the solutions require fortitude from the powers that be, and a realization from the users that they can’t get everything they want.

Labour Issues

Ontario is inching towards an all-out teachers strike between the elementary and secondary teacher unions. A few boards have been selected for strike action now, however the elementary union has a mandate for a province-wide strike. These are the same unions which supported Kathleen Wynne during the last general election. The unions are quickly realizing what many others have already, that Wynne over-promises and under-delivers. While generally supportive of the teachers right to strike, union rights, and that they expected promises made to be kept. As a parent, it is hard to explain to your eight year old that his class field trip may be postponed or cancelled because of labour unrest.

A solution to this may just be, honour the promises to the teachers, but cut administration to pay for it. There is no need for the amount of people in the board offices across the province. The teachers are the front-line workers and the most important part of the education system for children. Educational Assistants and other support workers are second most important. A bloated administration system, regional and sub-regional board offices, administration support staff, all not as important. So cut from there. When school boards were amalgamated starting 20 years ago, it was done to reduce administration costs and focus on front-line education. Now administration is bloated. Cut from the top, to fund the teachers.

Too many education systems

It is time to merge the catholic and public boards into one school system. Ontario has four, English-Public, English-Catholic, French-Public, French-Catholic. Merge them all into one system and remove all religion from publicly funded education. If a parent wishes for their child to go to a Christian school, or a Jewish school, or a Muslim school, then allow for that parent to not pay for the public system, and they can instead pay for private school.

The separate school system in Ontario was set up in 1867 under Section 93 of the British North American Act, and has been a constitutionally-protected institution since. Many parents, this writer included, have sent their children to the local catholic school because it was perceived to be the better school in the community, or that they had more supports in place for children. If the systems were merged, there would be a rationalization of schools across the province and an end to duplication, triplication, or in some cases quadruplication of schools. Administration would be cut and that money could then be put in place to help kids who need the extra supports, or just not spent at all.

The merger of the four systems into one, would end the unconstitutional hiring practices of the catholic boards, where non-catholics are unable to be hired for teaching positions. The removal of religion from education would bring back the teaching of morals and religion to where it belongs, in the family, and in the church, temple or mosque. It would put all children on the same footing across the province. One system, one set of rules, one set of standards.

Sex Education in Ontario

The new and divisive sex-education curriculum needs to be reviewed and scrapped. Having read some of the curriculum , and the British Columbia curriculum which the Ontario one was purported to be based on, it is a perversion. The Ontario plan was written by Ben Levin, an admitted and now convicted sex-offender. It has not been reviewed by the Minister of Education Liz Sandals, and parents are understandably upset about the new curriculum. The British Columbia curriculum is based on “body science”, how the body works, and why. The Ontario plan is social engineering pure and simple. Scrap it, start over. There is no question that a 20 year old curriculum needs to be updated, but not this.

Focus on the basics

Ian Lee, an economics professor with the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University, has stated repeatedly on TV, radio and print, that students entering university are not prepared enough coming out of Ontario high schools. Basic skills such as proper research skills, writing skills, vocabulary skills, all missing. If you have a high school student in your family, ask them what a bibliography is, or what the proper use of “they’re, their, there” is. These fundamental basics are not being drilled in to students in school, but how to use an iPad use is. As are how to use Wikipedia, Power Point and Google.

Over the last 20 to 30 years, education curriculum has been watered down to the lowest common denominator, so that no one will fail, or at least it is extremely difficult to fail. That has been the wrong solution. Strengthening the basics, and putting supports in place to help students who are struggling is the best solution. It will lead to students being better equipped to enter the world of work, or higher education, and therefore be more successful. That is the whole point of education, is to prepare youth to do better than their parents.


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