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Province proposing significant changes to education system

The provincial government announced it will end Grade 9 streaming, end suspensions for students between kindergarten and Grade 3, and increase sanctions on teachers who engage in racist behaviours.

THUNDER BAY - The provincial government is making significant changes to the education system to reduce barriers for Black, Indigenous, and other racialized groups and providing students in an equal opportunity to succeed.

Through Bill 197, the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020, the provincial government will eliminate discretionary suspensions for students between Kindergarten and Grade 3 beginning in September 2020.

Between 2018 and 2019, more than 65,000 elementary and secondary students were suspended in Ontario during the school year.

“Last year over half of the students suspended were students with special education needs,” said Premier Doug Ford during his daily media briefing on Thursday.

“Half of our black students are not making the choice to choose an academic stream in high school. Our Black and Indigenous and racialized students face more social and economic barriers to success than their fellow students and that’s just not right.”

In the 2021 academic year, the provincial government is also ending Grade 9 streaming and will instead introduce a new foundational Grade 9 math course.

“Every student ― irrespective of the colour of their skin, faith, heritage, and orientation ― deserves every opportunity to succeed in the classroom," said Minister of Education Stephen Lecce.

"The transformational change we are driving forward will embolden a generation of students and unleash their full potential, absent the systemic barriers that hold them back. To racialized students in Ontario: we see you, and we value you. We will stand with all students on this journey to advance respect, dignity, and opportunity."

Ford said forcing students at such a young age to try and plan their entire future is unfair and could exclude them from future opportunities.

“Everyone needs the same foundations for learning,” he said. “Streaming leaves students behind. At a young age, one decision could exclude a student from a world of opportunities later in life.”

The de-streaming of the Grade 9 math curriculum is being called the first step in further de-streaming in other curriculum areas.

Other changes include strengthening sanctions against teachers who engage in any racist or inappropriate behavior. According to the Ontario College of Teachers, in the last 23 years there has been 32 instances of teachers being disciplined for racist or homophobic remarks.

Any kind of hate whatsoever has no place in our classroom,” Ford said. “Any teacher who engages in this kind of hateful behavior or makes hateful slurs, they are done, they are gone.”

Doug Diaczuk

About the Author: Doug Diaczuk

Doug Diaczuk is a reporter and award-winning author from Thunder Bay. He has a master’s degree in English from Lakehead University
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