Fifteen current and former members of a student council set up under the Education Act have advised Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Lisa Thompson not to go ahead with cutbacks to the education system in the form of bigger class sizes.
The Minister’s Student Advisory Council is a 60-member group of students from across Ontario that usually meets twice a year. However, the Ford government has yet to call a meeting for the 2019-20 year.
“Student voice is at the heart of an education which puts students first — these recent changes have disregarded years worth of meaningful consultation and work done by over 500 MSAC council members,” the letter reads.
“Speaking from our experience as students, and people who care about quality education, we know that your proposed class size requirements will negatively impact all learners,” the letter says. “This will affect generations of Ontarians if it is implemented in our classrooms.”
The full text of the letter is reprinted below:
Monday March 18, 2019
Dear Premier Ford and Minister Thompson,
We write to you concerned with the recent changes announced to Ontario’s education system. As current and former members of the Minister’s Student Advisory Council, we have all had the unique privilege of advising governments of the past decade on key reforms within our education system, and we feel the recently announced policy puts much of this progress in jeopardy. Student voice is at the heart of an education which puts students first — these recent changes have disregarded years worth of meaningful consultation and work done by over 500 MSAC council members.
Since 2008, the Minister’s Student Advisory Council has provided guidance on important projects such as the 2016 Health and Physical Education curriculum, Financial Literacy in Mathematics curriculum, developing province wide Safe Schools policy, widening access to STEM resources, among many other important issues.
Speaking from our experience as students, and people who care about quality education, we know that your proposed class size requirements will negatively impact all learners. Students across Ontario have unique needs and increased workload for teachers hinders their ability to support every student in the way they deserve to be supported. This will affect generations of Ontarians if it is implemented in our classrooms. Additionally, the proposed requirement for a mandatory e-learning component in attaining a high school diploma will alienate differently abled students and disenfranchise students from low-income households — this is unacceptable.
We believe it is crucial that the Health and Physical Education curriculum is implemented as it was written by policy staff and subject matter experts in 2015, not with the alterations you have proposed. A key sentiment that came out of MSAC guidance on the HPE curriculum was that we must dignify students by equipping them with the knowledge they need for life, at the right time. Changes such as introducing the concept of gender identity in Grade 8, as opposed to Grade 2, will lead to intolerance within young people. It is a core value of our province and country that diversity should be embraced, the curriculum needs to reflect this.
A ban on cellphones is also worrying to us. Technology has become an important part of research and inquiry for many students. These tools are an essential part of ensuring that every student has what they need to help themselves succeed. We have also provided input in the past that punitive rules such as this are commonly unfairly enforced against marginalized students, something which disengages students from their learning and harms the culture of safety which should exist in every school.
Finally, it is deeply troubling to us that your government has not convened the Minister’s Student Advisory Council for the 2019-2020 year. When considering changes such as those you have put forward it is imperative that students have the final say — there are thousands of capable and passionate young people across the province who would be happy to work with you to develop compassionate and student-focused policy, but you need to provide the opportunity for them to do that. The creation of a Minister’s Student Advisory Council falls under section 10 (a) of the Education Act, we would hope that your government continues to fulfill this element of our province’s legislation.
We hope to hear from you on the changes you can make to your proposals, so we can ensure that Ontario’s schools continue to help students succeed.
[signed by 15 former and current members of the Minister’s Student Advisory Council.]