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Views from the front lines of Ontario's $800 Million investment in education

Kenny Elaison on Unsplash
Kenny Elaison on Unsplash

"How is school preparing me for the real world?" That is the question on the minds of more than 2 million students across Ontario.

The Ontario government just put out a release highlighting that they'll be spending upwards of $800 million to improve the curriculum in public schools, with an emphasis on reading, writing, math, STEM disciplines, and mental health literacy, according to Minister of Education Stephen Lecce.

However, is this a result of the pressure faced by parents and board members after the prevalence of falling test scores, which can no longer be blamed on the pandemic? Or is the government genuinely interested in seeing students succeed and preparing them for the real world instead of merely achieving academic excellence?

I reached out to the former Halton District School Board chair, Andrea Grebenc, to get her take on the matter.

"Releasing curriculum information for educators and boards one week prior to school beginning is egregious and speaks more to distracting from another issue rearing its ugly head connected to this government's actions around the greenbelt," Grebenc said.

"Teachers, as education experts, know who is in need of help, and funding could be targeted through their expertise rather than a not-so-arm-length government organization headed by someone with direct ties to the governing party."

"As a parent of children who have taken the tests, I have seen firsthand how it can add more stress to an already stressful student life. The grade 10 literacy course tops this list as it publicly identifies students through the need to take a supplemental course if the score is too low to meet graduation requirements".

"It is important to acknowledge that the EQAO test is a momentary snapshot of a single day and does not encompass the full spectrum of student performance. EQAO does not sample effectiveness in a randomized sample; it tests every child. Student census and other measures that are incorporated into the system can be far more productive in identifying groups and gaps to target funding."

After speaking with Joanna Severino, the founder of Prepskills, a local company that specializes in preparing students for admissions tests, she outlined that the skills shortages commonly found with students today come down to a base level: presentation, collaboration, problem-solving, and communication skills.

More to what Andrea Grebenc outlined, I've observed first and second-handedly that these tests focus primarily on academic knowledge and may not comprehensively evaluate the skills crucial for success in the real world.  

With that said, why would the government allocate nearly a billion dollars to slay this specific dragon when students recognize different sorts of system flaws beyond standardized testing?

Jessica, a grade 12 student at Holy Trinity, echoed these concerns, stating that she'd like to see teachers take on a more active role both in delivering the material and encouraging dialogue among students. 

"Lessen the amount of tests and start doing more projects, whether that's independently or collaboratively. Independently helps people learn how to research, and you learn more about what you're researching when doing so by yourself. Collaboration helps with branching out and learning how to talk to people and making sure everyone is responsible for their own part," commented Jessica. 

Teachers should make it a priority to create trust with their students so students feel like they can have someone to talk to, which makes them comfortable to ask for help, whether that's school work or their personal life, instead of being in fear of judgment.

I was fortunate to be able to speak with Jamie Mitchell, an Ontario Mathematics teacher who's renowned for his teaching methods. 

Jamie, I see you employ a flipped classroom and connect with students in a way that's not all too common but highly efficient. With that in mind, do you think this plan will benefit students and prepare them for life in the real world? Or do you think there are other matters for teachers and schools to focus on that are more important to help students?

"I fear what people hear when they are told that students are 'getting back to basics.' We've always taught the basics in Ontario," stated Mitchell. 

"What's missing is an emphasis on skills like communication, innovation, collaboration and critical thinking. How are we preparing students for an unpredictable future if we are always focused on delivering the basics?"


Ben Brown

About the Author: Ben Brown

Ben Brown is a local news reporter from Oakville, Ontario, a graduate from WIlfrid Laurier University and a self-published author. His main focus is reporting on crime, local businesses and achievements, and general news assignments throughout town
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