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Long awaited Ford government implementation of mandatory, but optional, e-learning requirement

On February 1, 2022, the Ford government finally broke its silence and provided direction to Ontario schools for the implementation of their mandatory, but optional, online/e-learning graduation requirement.

The long-awaited reveal of Policy Program Memorandum (PPM) 167, a Ministry of Education memo that provided direction to school boards on the opt-out process, confirms what numerous education stakeholders have been repeating for over two years—this government is not interested in listening to public concerns and is determined to create chaos, confusion, and anxiety in publicly funded education in Ontario.

Despite the lack of data documenting benefits to children and increasing evidence of several drawbacks and harms, the Ontario government is moving forward with their plan to make online schooling a permanent “choice” in public education.

OSSTF/FEESO was able to push back against the Ford government in the last round of bargaining on their entrenched position of requiring all high school students to complete four courses online in order to graduate.  Many parents, students, and educators opposed mandatory online learning, which led the government to back down their position to two mandatory online courses in order to graduate, with a provision for students to opt-out of this requirement.

For almost two years, OSSTF/FEESO staff repeatedly requested the details contained in PPM 167 only to be told at “discussion tables”, that the information “is coming soon.”

Online learning cannot replace the complex, relationship-oriented learning and social environment in schools. The government, OSSTF/FEESO members, families, students, education experts, and even the medical experts that the Ford government says they listen to, know this to be true.

Premier Ford and Minister Lecce have repeatedly stated the best place for student learning is in schools, when students are able to work and learn face-to-face.

Considering PPM 167 was released less than five minutes after the public was told that students had to be back in school for in-person learning to protect their mental health, it seems the Ford government is only laser focused on promoting their agenda of more online learning options, and less focused on what is good for students.

Many students and families aren’t aware of their ability to choose, or who face social or linguistic barriers accessing school information, including some newcomers, and are therefore more likely to be negatively impacted by this cumbersome process.

Beyond the changes in graduation requirements (see table 1), evidence is emerging that indicates online learning can negatively impact student physical and mental health.

During the pandemic, there have been reports that remote learning has led to an increase in feelings of social isolation amongst students. In addition, as youth become more sedentary and decrease their level of daily physical activity, they become more prone to various physical health ailments.

Mandating e-learning represents a potentially devastating cut to publicly-funded education. Currently boards are funded at a lower level based on projected numbers of online learning courses, putting pressure on school boards to provide a full range of options for students.  This in-turn drives more students to on-line learning to get the courses they need. At the same time, it paves the way for privatization of publicly-funded education, as international companies are eager to cash in on online learning services and portals.

Releasing PPM 167 months after school boards began staffing and programming planning for the 2021–2022 school year is yet another demonstration of a government that is either unaware, or does not care, about what is required to provide high quality, rich, programming for Ontario students.

OSSTF/FEESO encourages all members involved in these processes to advocate for clear and explicit information regarding the opt-out process. Moreover, every member should be vigilant and focus on discovering how your board and school are implementing PPM 167 and share that information with colleagues and your local Executive as soon, and as often, as possible.

Member support of OSSTF/FEESO advocacy and push back efforts against this destructive, poorly researched educational policy will be crucial going forward.  OSSTF/FEESO acknowledges the need to rebuild Ontario but that requires well-designed and implemented policy and investments in publicly-funded education. Clearly, based on PPM 167, that is the exact opposite of what the Ford e-learning plan aims to accomplish.


In September 2021, if you entered grade Requirements to earn an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (O.S.S.D.)
Credits required OSSLT


Community Involvement Hours e-Learning





(18 compulsory 12 elective)

Required 40 2 or Opt-out



(18 compulsory 12 elective)

Required 40 2 or Opt-out

(1 granted due to COVD-19 emergency remote learning)




(18 compulsory 12 elective)

Required 40 Waived/Not Required for this cohort



(18 compulsory 12 elective)

Waived/Not Required for cohort IF graduating in 2021/2022 20 Waived/Not Required for this cohort
Adult Learners


Includes adult learners but only students entering the Ontario secondary school system in 2023-24 or later will be required to meet this requirement or opt out



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