The EQAO results were released early in September indicating Ontario schools were failing students in Math education. I was not thrilled to hear this but I was thrilled to hear what Mitzie Hunter, Ontario Education Minister, had to say about it when speaking with Gill Deacon on CBC’s Here and Now. Minister Hunter spoke about the government’s commitment to improve not only Math in our schools, but to also consider making broader changes to better prepare our students for our modern world. This was a message I’ve been waiting to hear from our government for almost a decade.
For seven years now, we have been building our school to deliver a curriculum that develops the Global Competencies that Ms Hunter mentioned – innovative thinking and creativity, collaboration, problem solving, communication, critical thinking, computers and citizenship. We have been committed to a competency-based curriculum because we recognized that the world was changing very quickly, and it was becoming common knowledge itself that a knowledge-based curriculum was no longer relevant and could not adequately prepare our students for the world they live in. Despite these efforts to be progressive, and the successes that have come with that, the government does little to recognize or even acknowledge that schools like HPDS are providing students with a solid, if not superior education. They have even gone as far as to warn families about the potential “dangers” of private schools, instead of promoting choice in education as other provincial governments in Canada have done.
While I am happy to hear that our government is recognizing the need for change as well, I am not optimistic that this will happen swiftly enough to benefit today’s students who need it most. The program goals that Minister Hunter spoke about will need a lot more than a strong will and a budget to be successful. New teacher training, new learning environments, new schedules, new methods and approaches, new assessment measures and reporting methods, and above all else, changed attitudes and understanding about education by the public, will be needed to turn this massive ship around. To fully appreciate the magnitude of the challenge to transform the system, one needs to look only to the current Math situation and see how little effect the plan and $60 million dollars did to improve math competencies. Although one year is not enough time to realize the effects of the investments made for improvement, time is not on our side, and we can’t afford to waste a single second more. I’m afraid that it may already be too late.
So how can the government accomplish this enormous challenge? The future of our education is a societal concern and cannot be left to government officials alone to remedy. It will take the collaborative efforts of all stakeholders in education; our government, educators, parents and students, thought-leaders and the public.
If they are serious about their commitments to reform education, our government will model the skills they aim to teach with the new curriculum, and take an open-minded, innovative and collaborative approach to the challenge. To start, they can work with, instead of against, alternative and independent school leaders who have had this vision of education for years so that they can learn from their successes and failures. It’s time that our government get over their education ego and acknowledge that “their way” is not the only way. It’s time to move on from the inharmonious relationship with non-government educators. If they ignore that others in the private sector have been making advances with the curriculum that they aspire to, they will only waste more valuable time and funds. Instead, we can work together to achieve our common goals of bringing education into the 21st Century.