Results from Ontario’s education consultation released
The Ministry of Education has released the results from the education consultation that took place in the fall of 2018. The consultation sought out public opinion on a range of topics, including the math curriculum, health and physical education curriculum, standardized testing, and a potential Parents’ Bill of Rights.
The Ministry received 72,000 responses to the consultations: 58% of responses came via the online survey, 38% were through the open submission form, and 4% came through participation in telephone town halls. Half of the participants in the town halls also participated in the online survey.
Most of the survey respondents were parents or guardians (61%), followed by educators (16%), then adults without children (11%), students (3%), employers (2%), and other (7%). Eighty seven percent of the parents who responded have children in publicly funded schools.
Most of the participating parents reported that they are active in their children’s education. Almost all of them said that they always attend parent-teacher nights, and that they are likely to read fact sheets about the curriculum, use online resources to enhance their child’s learning, and visit websites to learn more about the curriculum and school programs.
Survey respondents were divided regarding Ontario’s standardized testing system. While one third of respondents said that standardized testing should continue in grades 3, 6, and 9, almost the same percentage of respondents said that there shouldn’t be any standardized testing. When asked how they feel about EQAO, over half of the respondents said that it ‘disrupts education by requiring teachers to teach to the test.’
The results from the telephone town halls reflect an even stronger attitude towards standardized testing. Sixty eight percent of participants in the town halls said that they thought that Ontario didn’t need more standardized testing, and 62% didn’t value the results of the standardized tests.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)
In terms of math skills, participants felt that what was most lacking are those math skills related to life skills (budgeting) and job skills (managing finances). They weren’t as concerned with coding or computer literacy as they were about other things lacking in their children’s skillsets. Town hall participants were split down the middle when asked if it is important to learn coding in schools.
When asked about interventions that might have an impact on math achievement, participants felt that to ‘provide practical examples that use math’ would have the most impact, followed by ‘math fundamentals’ and ‘early exposure to STEM.’ In keeping with their views on EQAO, parents felt that ‘improving standardized testing’ would make the least difference in improving achievement in math. This is interesting given that one of the main pieces of evidence in the critique of discovery math are the grade 6 math EQAO scores.
A majority of parents reported spending time helping their kids with math. Most reported spending anywhere from 0-2 hours a week, with a small percentage spending more than five hours a week on math support.
Many of the parents who responded said they spend money to support their children’s math education, with almost 40% reporting paying for extra math supports.
Health and Physical Education
The survey asked about whether a set of topics should be included in the new health and physical education curriculum. Every topic in the list received a high level support for its inclusion. The highest level of support was for ‘online safety ’, with 96% of respondents saying that it should be included. The lowest level of support was for ‘gender identity and expression,’ with 68% responding that it should be included. Respondents that agreed gender identity should be included in the curriculum said that it should be introduced at ages 5-7 (the earliest option on the survey).
The four topics that respondents felt most strongly should not be in the curriculum were ‘gender identity and expression’ (30%), ‘sexual orientation’ (26%), ‘various forms of family structures’ (23%), and ‘the role of love and commitment in intimacy’ (17%).
Interestingly, when asked who they trusted as sources of information for sexual health, ‘doctors/nurses’ received the highest response, followed by ‘academic experts’, then ‘parents’, and finally ‘school curriculum/teachers’.
Cell phones in the classroom
The majority of participants felt that cell phones should be banned during instructional time, except for educational purposes.
No consultation on class size or Indigenous education
The consultation did not provide any opportunities for input on Indigenous education or class size.
The consultations depict an Ontario that is thinking deeply about public education—what should and shouldn’t be included in the curriculum, and when subjects should be taught. In an announcement on March 15, the government addressed some of the topics discussed in the consultation, including curriculum changes, a ‘ban’ on cell phones, and modernizing EQAO testing. It will be interesting to see how the consultation results inform the Ministry’s new vision of “Education that works for you”.