Access to e-learning solutions is less pressing today than ever. More schools, teachers, and students have access to the internet than ever before. More than ever, there is choice in the market. Every product segment of education technology is exploding with well-funded competition, and many of them offer free solutions for teachers. So why are we still funding outdated one-size-fits-all models when it comes to tech in classrooms?
Public education is a cartel, and cartels can be very hard to disrupt. But disruption is already taking place in the post-secondary sector -- see UoPeople, the world's first non-profit, near tuition-free, accredited online university. When it comes to the disruption of elementary and secondary education, the challenge is greater.
The backlash against Ontario's new health curriculum has left many people confused. Is it radical? Are fundamental parental and religious rights being undermined? All parents want to protect their children, but opponents of sex education are inadvertently doing the opposite. Denying children accurate and inclusive information about their bodies, human relationships and sexuality is not protective; it is irresponsible. Without such information, children are unable to care for themselves and grow into healthy and responsible adults.
Ontario Premier Wynne ascended to power by winning over the small clique of Liberal Party members who can afford leadership conference fees and travel expenses. Both Ontario women and LGBT communities rejoiced at this opportunity to have, for the first time, one their own at the seat of power. People of colour and hijab-wearing Muslim-Canadian women face acute harassment that falls outside the sort explicitly described in Wynne's plan. As a candidate, Wynne reached out to visible minorities on her way to the mountain top. Then she forgot about them.
Understanding Ontario's financial woes is critical to understanding the need for real change. The province has been in deficit since 2008-09, accumulating more than $61 billion in debt. In 2013-14, the deficit was $11.3 billion. The province's debt now stands at almost $270 billion; it was just $130 billion at the start of the 2000s.
Elementary-level math involves failure. It has to. You can have kids show their work all you like; there are still going to be right and wrong answers. Which is fine. Unless you happen to be raising a generation of young people who are so unused to being told they've erred that the prospect of being wrong stresses them out completely.
Change in the Catholic church is a slow process. Progressive Catholics should be pleased by the change in language and focus, but not hope for much more. While this type of growth may be enough for the church, the Ontario Catholic school system must be more responsive to issues of equality. Fortunately, the Canadian Catholic community is quick to adapt to injustice.
Janelle Brady is a noted young activist and education advocate based in Toronto. The Province of Ontario recently honored her with the Ontario Medal for Young Volunteers. I spoke to Brady about her activism, what her latest achievements mean to her and where she would want to be five years from now.
By washing the feet of two Muslims the Pope has sent a message that it is time for us to reach out to other faiths. This is also a message to Catholic Trustees to open the doors of our schools. Some Ontario Catholic school systems already allow non-Catholics to attend their elementary schools. Two years ago I heard one of these students speak at a conference. This student shared how much he enjoyed learning about Catholicism during the week, while he also liked learning about his religion on Saturdays. This boy of 10 or 11 had more interfaith respect and understanding than most of us can hope to learn in a lifetime.
Ontarian parents who favour one unified school system would be wise to take a look at the education scene in B.C., where some say the teachers' union is more powerful than God. If we didn't have three teachers' unions in Ontario, it is likely that no students would be enjoying extra-curricular activities today.
For the sake of future generations, we need to take immediate and forceful action to deal with Ontario's massive deficit. And of course, to cut the deficit we will need to cut government waste, and that includes cutting the wasteful practices so prevalent in our education system. Ontario is going to have to take drastic action lest it go the way of Greece.
Ontario high school students are being disproportionately affected by the conflict between the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) and the provincial government. What is most worrying about the conflict between the Ontario teacher's union and the government is the way in which students are being used as pawns by the OSSTF to advance and promote a political message. Students' anger over the loss of extracurricular activities should not be directed towards the government.
Some unions have engaged in strike action that has closed schools, restricted learning for students and created an unstable learning environment. It has been stressful and chaotic for many students and parents. Then those same union leaders asked the government not to move ahead with collective agreements, yet they had no other solutions to offer -- except more disruption. That's why, on my advice, the Lieutenant Governor in Council has put in place collective agreements for all school boards and unions that were unable to deliver ratified and approved collective agreements by the deadline.