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Saturday, April 20, 2019

A Brief History of Ontario Education

The Education sector in Ontario, to be honest ever sector in Ontario, is going under radical change these days. To me, these changes are not for the better. I cannot see the rationale behind these changes because none has been given and no actual plan or vision has been put forward.
To move forward it is helpful to know where you came from. My formal involvement in Education began in 2010 being elected a Trustee in the AMDSB. Informally it began in 2005 when my youngest began school followed by involvement in ARCs, SAC and PIC. So let us look back at Education but not too far back.
I lied. “In 1907, the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association declared, “The competition of the world has become so strong that we cannot afford to fall behind in the race for efficiency. . . . Technical education must come . . . we must educate our people towards efficiency” (p. 844)”. (Global Change and Educational Reform in Ontario and Canada, Brian O’Sullivan)
Much reform/change to Education is Ontario took place under the Government of Premier Jason Robarts and Minister of Education William Davis (future Premier) in the 1960s.
The Hall-Dennis Report: Living and Learning: The Report of the Provincial Committee on Aims and Objectives of Education in the Schools of Ontario of 1968. ‘We stand today in the dawn of our second century and assess the field of future education . . . we must not lose sight of the human needs that the new dawn brings . . . we have in our hands the means of change for human betterment . . . for the people of Ontario . . . for all Canadians, and hopefully... [for] all mankind. (p. 9)’ I can find lots of references to the Report but not a good link. The Hall Dennis Report: Living and Learning
I will pick up here in 1993/95.
The Ontario Royal Commission on Learning was initiated by the NDP Government of Premier Bob Rae. This Government was replaced by the PC Government of Premier Mike Harris in June 1995. Royal Commission on Learning: For the Love of Learning
“In May 1993, the Province of Ontario established the Royal Commission on Learning "to ensure that Ontario's youth are well-prepared for the challenges of the twenty-first century."
After exhaustive public consultation, the Commission released its report, entitled For the Love of Learning, in January 1995. The report was to suggest a vision and action plan to guide the reform of elementary and secondary education. This would include values, goals and programs of schools, as well as systems of accountability and educational governance.” (Ministry of Education Ontario website)
In its Introduction the Committee made the following:

“A climate of uncertainty

-Like all organizations, our Commission operated within a particular time, and our deliberations were inevitably influenced by the context of unsettling truths around us.
-Our society is characterized by turbulence, creating widespread uncertainty and anxiety. Canadians fear a future of diminished opportunity, and expect public institutions to deal with this acute concern.
-Our economic system is changing, while technology is advancing at a geometrically accelerating pace.
-The fallout from those related phenomena includes the prospect of a large core of permanently unemployed and underemployed men and women, of younger people in particular, and of considerable confusion about the future of work.
-In the current political climate, and for the foreseeable future, projects requiring vast new public funding will be seen as impractical. The operative cliche is that it is possible to work smarter, doing even more with even less.
-The composition of Canada's population is changing dramatically, not least in Ontario and, above all, in southern Ontario. Each year, we become an increasingly diverse nation, but our institutions often fail to reflect that diversity.
-There is a sense that traditional social institutions have been breaking down, and that the family, as well as community and religious organizations, are no longer able to instil personal and ethical values in successive generations of Canadians.
-Despite uncertainty about common values, large segments of the population are not content to live in a society that has no identifiable values.
-At the same time, and for a variety of reasons, Canadians have been losing faith in their public institutions. As a result, they have been demanding that these operate more openly, involve more citizen participation, and become more explicitly accountable to the public at large.
-Schools necessarily reflect - at least to some extent - the societies in which they operate. Therefore, it is not surprising that today's education system feels shaky, unsure, lacking in self-confidence, and struggling with a mandate that is increasingly uncertain and whose purposes are no longer self-evident. Not only is that the background against which the Commission operated, it was the reason the Commission was established.”
In its Conclusions and Implementation were:
“In the course of our own extensive work - and learning - certain lessons about the process of education reform became clear. If we fail to take these lessons to heart, we fear that the process of change may well be doomed from the outset.
  1. There are no instant solutions to the problems of today's schools, no short cuts. But there are solutions.
  2. The process of learning is highly complex, but there are ways to get our children to learn better.
  3. The education system is enormously complicated, but there are ways to transform it.
  4. No serious change can happen without the willing co-operation of teachers.
  5. Parents who create an atmosphere that values learning, and who support their children's school efforts, are giving their children a major advantage. Parents are a largely untapped resource.
  6. The best way to ensure that kids do well at school is to provide all of them with affluent, literate, professional parents. Clearly, this is impossible; however, schools can compensate for the disadvantages many students bring with them from home. So even though a student's background remains the chief determinant of educational success in Ontario, schools have the capacity - if they have the will to overcome the handicaps of a child's background.
  7. When all is said and done, we place our confidence in the knowledge and dedication of the professional educators of Ontario. While every parent and every member of the community has significant contributions to make, it is our teachers, principals, and other educators who must provide the inspirational, active, hands-on leadership role that is needed.
  8. There are important and powerful players in the education system. The influence of some of these players, like the teachers' federations, is obvious, while that of others, equally powerful, for instance, universities, is less well known. But all players must be committed to the process of radical change if it has any hope of success.” (Ministry of Education Ontario Website)
Do any of these still apply today?

Noted above the PC government of Premier Mike Harris was elected in June 1995 before anything from the Commission could be implemented. The PC government was elected on the ‘Common Sense Revolution’ platform with ‘New Direction II: A Blueprint for Learning’ as there education vision. You can research yourself if you don't recall, the changes to the Education system under the PC government. The PCs remained in power until 2002 when the Liberal government of ‘Education Premier’ Dalton McGuinty was elected. I will leave it to your own curiosity to discover the impact of the Liberal Government under McGuinty and Wynne until 2018. ‘Ontario a Leader in Learning (2005) looked at post-secondary education. K-12 reform continued with  ’Energizing Ontario Education (2008). The Fullan Report (2013) ‘Great to Excellence’ laid the groundwork for the Liberal vision ‘Achieving Excellence’ (2014) Many of these reports have been removed from the Ministry's website.

I will note the Drummond Report 2012 that was commissioned by the Liberal Government. The Drummond report examined every aspect of Government in Ontario. The Drummond Report: Commission on the Reform of Ontario's Public Services In Education, it made 27 Recommendations. I will highlight three of them here:
“The Drummond Report 2012
Recommendation 6-3: The elementary and secondary education sector should stay the course with its current agenda, which consists of three key goals: improving student achievement, closing gaps in student outcomes and increasing confidence in the publicly funded school system. The province and the sector must sustain the current alignment between provincial, school board and school-level efforts, and sustain the “pressure and support” approach adopted in recent years.
Recommendation 6-4: Reforms in the elementary and secondary sector should be introduced so that all stakeholders have their role to play in ensuring the system’s long-term sustainability and so that unnecessary sources of distraction are avoided.
Recommendation 6-5: To ensure transparency and effectiveness, the province should confirm multi-year allocations to school boards for the 2012–13 to 2017–18 period so that they can plan accordingly, have enough time to find the required efficiencies and enter negotiations for renewal of the sector’s collective agreements that will expire on Aug. 31, 2012, with clear knowledge of their budgetary position.” (Ministry of Finance Ontario Website)

I think someone needs to read these!

As I wrote this I came upon this report: Policy Trends in Ontario Education 1990-2003, Anderson & Jaafar (2003). Policy Trends in Ontario Education 1990-2003 Would like to see if there is an updated version.
In 2018 the Liberals were replaced by the election of the PCs under Premier Doug Ford and their ‘Plan for the People’ Platform. If you don’t know what is going on in the Education Sector within the vision of ‘Education that Works for You’ these days you must be living under a rock.

Did this post ever grow beyond what I had envisioned but yet there is much missing. You can see there are policy trends between parties. Only partial implementation of others or even worst the wrong implementation of recommendations. Putting your own spin on things.
A problem with Education is Ontario, it is always at the whim of the government in power. Therefore it will always be at times stagnant, going forward and unfortunately backwards.

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