By: Sapna Humar and Abi Parameswaran
In March 2019, Doug Ford’s Ontario government announced some major changes they would be implementing in the current education system. These proposals were immediately met with backlash, and for a good reason, as they will unquestionably have negative effects on students and teachers alike. If you aren’t aware of the current government plans for the education system, here’s a short summary of some of what’s happening and why you should consider taking action against it:
Increased Class Sizes
Ford plans to increase the average class size for high school students from 22 to 28 students per class — that’s 27%! It may not seem like much, but this could mean some classes having up to 45 students. This increase is problematic for not only students (especially those with special needs), who often fare better with smaller class sizes and individualized attention, but also for teachers. One union official estimates that over 18, 000 teaching positions in Grade 4-12 will be cut over the next 4 years. Teachers who continue to work will have an excess number of students to deal with and will not be able to give each one the attention they need, not to mention the larger workload they will receive with such large classes.. In addition to this, specialized courses which already have a low number of students could be cut out all together. This includes those focused in the Arts, woodshop, home economics, languages, and technology courses.
These changes will require every student to take 1 credit per year online using e-learning, for a total of 4 credits (440 hours). Online learning is definitely not for everyone, with many students faring better in a physical classroom. Not only will there be much less accountability, but classes will lose their interactive, hands-on nature and ultimately may cause the student’s grades to drop. In addition, many students do not have access to the proper technology or high-speed wifi for online learning to be feasible, which creates yet another barrier for those lacking in these areas.
The government plans to cut money out of the Ontario Student Assistance Program, which includes removing the free tuition offered to low-income families. The government will also get rid of the six-month interest-free grace period after graduation, which allowed students to find a job before they had to begin paying off their loans. When taking into account today’s unemployment rates, it will be extremely difficult for students to pay off their student loans, and will ultimately create many problems for graduates and their families. Students will be limited in choosing a University to attend due to these financial changes, and could be held back from accomplishing their dreams because of their family’s lower income.
Cell Phone Ban:
Lastly, another one of the key points of the government’s new education planning is banning cell phones from classes. Although the aim of this is to prevent distractions, cell phones are becoming increasingly important in classrooms in today’s day and age. They can be seen as important learning tools, and banning these altogether can hinder a student’s progress. In addition, those students from lower-income families who do not own laptops and tablets will be put at a disadvantage, as they cannot use their cell phone. Schools already have rules surrounding cell phones and making sure they are used purely for educational purposes, so this ban is highly unnecessary.
Where Does Forest Hill Stand?
Many students are unaware of many of the repercussions that are coming with this new system. A free accessible education is slowly being restricted and controlled by a government that does not understand student needs. The Golden Falcon Newspaper wanted to see how informed their student body was about these upcoming changes and created polls on the school Instagram to see if students understood the significance. Here are the results:
For some context, the @fhcigoldenfalcon is an Instagram account that has over 550 followers. Of this, close to 300 students voted on this poll, which represents one-fourth of our student body. These polls show that the student body of Forest Hill is knowledgeable on the upcoming changes and their votes are making it clear that they are also being affected by these changes. The fact that 10% of students in this poll do not have access to a computer within itself shows that the changes in the system will only have negative effects when a mandatory online course comes into effect. In addition, 79% of students have never taken an online course. This can be due to many different reasons, however, stripping students of this choice ultimately hinders their education and affects educational growth. The cuts to the OSAP education system will also pose many detrimental effects to student decisions, as this can result in many students shying away from college and university as they can not afford it. Indigenous studies is an area that has already gotten a slim representation in the Ontario curriculum and with these new changes, there will be even less.
All these polls show one clear distinction, which is that the changes to the school system will only work to a student’s detriment. These drastic and unnecessary changes and budget cuts will only restrict students from their educational growth. It is said students are the future of the world and making such unnecessary cuts will only send the message that student education is not prized and prioritized in society. There are many different actions being taken to fight this system in the forms of protests, walkouts, and petitions. It is time to prioritize a quality education that all of Ontario pays for. Making unnecessary cuts to the one system that millions of people of all ages depend on is selfish, and insensitive. The school system in Ontario has so much potential that may slowly dwindle away within the next few months. Students and teachers alike need to come together and fight these changes, or Ontario’s education system may never recover.