POLITICS
11/21/2019 14:20 EST | Updated 11/21/2019 15:22 EST

Stephen Lecce Walks Back Online Course Requirement For Ontario High Schoolers

The Progressive Conservatives' elearning plan had been criticized by teachers and students.

Chris Young/Canadian Press
Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce speaks in the legislature in Toronto on Oct. 28, 2019.

TORONTO — The Ontario government is partially retreating on its plan to require high school students to take courses online. 

Students will have to pass two online courses to graduate instead of four, as the government had previously announced, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said in a press release Thursday.

Online learning will help students “learn and thrive in a world increasingly disrupted by technology,” Lecce said. 

Teachers and students had criticized the proposal, saying it could leave behind teenagers who don’t have access to computers or whose parents don’t speak English.

“It’s a form of negligence,” Toronto teacher Sarah Vance told HuffPost in May.

Lecce’s announcement comes in the middle of testy contract negotiations with all the major teachers’ unions in Ontario. 

The online learning rule wasn’t the Progressive Conservative government’s only education policy  that teachers’ unions took issue with. They’ve also bemoaned the increase to class sizes, which was also partially reversed, and Bill 124, which limits salary increases for teachers and other public sector workers to one per cent per year.

Minister Stephen Lecce also partially walked back his plan to increase class sizes. Story continues after video.

 

Even though the government’s policies are less drastic than previously announced, the changes will still remove 5,000 teaching jobs from high schools over the coming years, one union head said Thursday. 

That’s “a massive erosion of the system,” Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), told reporters at Queen’s Park.

Bischof had just announced that his members would start a work-to-rule campaign next week.

“We spent too long making [Ontario’s education system] an internationally-renowned education system to allow this short-sighted, ham-fisted government to tear it down.”