Education Changes and the Family

Petitions have already begun to pop up in protest of the proposed changes to the Ontario education system.  These changes are significant and will save money – primarily through reduced teacher costs.  But education is not solely about money.  Thus it is important to consider the wider impacts of any changes to the education system.  Here are my thoughts based in my experience as a secondary school teacher (note: I left the profession nearly 20 years ago) and hubby’s ongoing experience as grade 8 teacher.

Increase in class sizes

  • During my time teaching, I had classes with up to 36 students.  In some cases, these were computer classes where (when all computers were working) we had 30 computers.  This meant that 1/3 of the students were sharing computers every class.
  • Non-academic classes were generally smaller.  In several cases, I had 30 students in what was called general level math.  One third of those students (10) were identified as having learning disabilities and needing extra help.  Thus, over a 75 minute period, I was responsible for teaching a lesson and then spending one on one time with students who struggled to understand the lesson.  If I taught only 15 minutes (and everything started and ended on time and there were no distractions), that would give me 2 minutes for each student.  How much math can you explain to a teenager in 2 minutes? 
  • And then there are distractions – the more teenagers there are in a room, the harder it is to keep track of what everyone is doing.  There’s a ban on cell phone use?  How are teachers going to police that while checking homework, helping those who struggle, teaching a lesson, dealing with mental health issues (yes, teachers have seen suicide notes from students), addressing bullying, responding to concerns about life (I can guarantee there were multiple classes throughout the province who discussed the terrorist attacks at the Mosques in New Zealand these last couple of days) and more?

Mandatory e-courses

  • Who is going to provide these?  What accreditation will be required?  How will they be evaluated (both in terms of the quality of the course and student evaluation)? 
  • What will happen to students who have one less class to attend during school time?  Who will supervise students during their e-course time?
  • What efforts will be made to ensure that students have access to the resources necessary to do e-courses?  Can we really assume that all students have computers and sufficient Internet access?  What if they don’t?
  • What assistance will be provided for those students who don’t do well in independent learning?  What about those who struggle with the content?  How will students receive the one on one attention that is often essential for course completion?

Tuition for low-income families

  • Post-secondary students are gathering today to protest the cuts to OSAP that will make college and university education unaffordable for students across the province.
  • While the overall cut to the cost of tuition seems like a good thing – it primarily benefits those who could already afford to pursue post-secondary education AND forces the institutions to figure out how to pay for that cut.

Back to families

In the end, it comes back to families.  If classes are too big to allow teachers to regularly provide students with the one on one help they need, that will be downloaded to families.  Students taking e-courses will likely do so at home – meaning that families will need to provide the resources and support necessary for their completion.  When students can’t pay for post-secondary education, the consequences play out for the family.

Every student is, first and foremost, a member of a family who provides the foundation for their journey through the education system.  Cost-saving measures must be balanced out somehow.  Recognising that every family’s situation is different – every parent’s ability to help their child with homework, pay for technology and support post-secondary education is different – is it realistic, fair or even helpful to download so much onto the family?

What do you think?  Are you concerned about the proposed education changes?  What concerns you?  Why?  We would love to hear from you.

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