Ever since the Ford government took office in late June, a number of programs, initiatives and consultations important to the publicly-funded education system in Ontario seem to have come to a halt. Some of these have disappeared quietly with little public attention. Some have been visible in the media.
The cancellation of curriculum writing sessions to address the Calls to Action issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission may well be an indication of the Ford government’s intentions when it comes to moving forward (or not) on a number of education files. Will knowledgeable professionals who work in education, as well as experts in related fields, find themselves frozen out of previously existing consultations and work that has been ongoing in the interests of students, educators and the public?
Or are we jumping to conclusions? While it is common for a new party taking over the reins of governmental power to press pause and review the status of ministerial files, the Ford government has been very clear that its review is through the exclusive lens of cost-cutting.
Historically, curriculum writing and revision has been left to experts in the relevant subject areas. Consultations are normally with stakeholders who understand the research and have the experience necessary to keep up-to-date on the skills and knowledge that students need. It is arguable that involving thousands of parents in the Health and Physical Education (HPE) curriculum consultations for the 2015 revisions was purely political. However, in the end, experts in the field of sexual health and physical education were still prominent in that consultation process.
Ford’s commitment to consult parents on the HPE curriculum is equally political. There appears to be no commitment to involve either educators who will be tasked with delivering this curriculum to students or experts with evidence-based research and a depth of knowledge in the field of health and physical education.
When it comes to the curriculum revision process for the inclusion of Indigenous content, would we rely solely on parents to decide what should be taught? How about physics, history or art?
In the meantime, calls to the Minister of Education go unanswered. Meetings, consultations and project work on initiatives that involved key stakeholders in education have either stopped or been disbanded. A cold silence is emanating from the Ford-controlled ministries.
Educators and the federations that support them stand at the ready to re-engage with the government. The experts and professionals who do evidence-based research to support progressive learning practices are also available to provide the kind of advice that has helped to make Ontario’s publicly-funded education system among the best in the world.
All the Ford government needs to do is to pick up the phone or open the door.