Class size changes, new math and sex-ed programs part of Ontario’s education revamp

The Ford government revealed significant changes to Ontario’s education system on Friday, including increased intermediate and high school class sizes, new elementary math and sex-ed curricula and a province-wide ban on cellphones in the classroom.

“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.

Thompson announced the reforms at a morning news conference at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto.

The average class size requirement for secondary Grades 9 to 12 will be adjusted to 28, up from the current average of 22.

The increase would align Ontario “more closely to other jurisdictions across Canada,” the government said in a news release. Similarly, the average class size for intermediate Grades 4 to 8 will increase to 24.5, up slightly from 23.84.

The government committed to maintaining the current caps on class sizes for kindergarten and primary grades at 29 and 23, respectively.

Changes to class sizes will be implemented over a period of four years, Thompson said, adding that “not one teacher will lose their job” due to the updates.

Meanwhile, Thompson revealed that gender identity and consent will be taught as part of a new sexual-education curriculum that will be introduced to schools by the fall.

The curriculum will replace an interim teaching plan based on 1998 materials that were put in place last year after the Progressive Conservatives repealed a 2015 curriculum from the previous Liberal government.

The 2015 curriculum addressed consent, online bullying, sexting, same-sex relationships and gender identity.

The province previously held an online consultation on the issue and an overwhelming majority of those who weighed in through that forum in the first day opposed the decision to scrap the 2015 curriculum.

The province says parents will still be able to opt out of having their kids exposed to certain topics in the sex-ed class, and the ministry will issue online modules for those who want guidance on discussing those topics at home.

Thompson provided few details on how the government will ensure that children are learning certain topics if their parents opt-out of classroom lessons.

The “core focus,” however, will be on “protecting students physically, socially and emotionally,” Thompson told reporters.

Further, Ontario’s new math curriculum will focus on “fundamentals,” Thompson said, with a strong element of financial literacy. So-called “discovery math,” introduced by the previous Liberal government, will no longer be used by teachers as a teaching method.

Thompson said the changes were developed from public consultations that gathered input from some 72,000 people, including educators, parents and other stakeholders.

The full curriculum is expected to be released in May and implemented in September.

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