Health Curriculum in Ontario

There seems to be an unending stream of commentaries, opinions and news related to Ontario’s Health curriculum and what will be taught in September.

Why this has become an issue:

Following consultation with the ministry of education, parents, students, teachers, faculties of education, universities, colleges, and organisations including the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Healthy Schools Coalition and the Ontario Public Health Association, the Provincial Government of Ontario released a major update to the Health Curriculum in 2015.  This new curriculum included information about mental health, online safety, and bullying as well as information about sex and gender variations and the impact of these on relationships.

Some conservative groups did not like this new curriculum and complained that they hadn’t been adequately consulted in its development.  To appeal to these groups, Doug Ford promised to repeal the curriculum and develop a new one with greater consultation.  Thus, one of the first acts of the newly elected government has been to repeal the 2015 curriculum and ask that boards use the same curriculum that was used in 2014 in the classroom until the new curriculum has been developed.

What is at stake?

The curriculum used in 2014 was actually developed in 1998 – before today’s students were even born.  As further discussed in this post, in the twenty years since that curriculum was introduced:

  • we have seen major shifts in the rights and privileges given to the LGBTQ2+ community;
  • Mental health is gaining in understanding and acceptability;
  • The prevalence of technology and social media has opened the way to new issues including cyber bullying, sexting and phishing which place young people at risk;
  • The #metoo movement has highlighted the importance of learning about consent;
  • Research has shown that children are entering puberty at younger ages than ever before.

These are the realities of students today.  Do we really want to leave it up to the media to give young people the tools they need to navigate this new environment as highlighted in this post.

How are people responding?

A lot has been said about the importance of sex education and updated tools students need to stay safe, feel included and make healthy decisions.  Some have shared their personal experiences including this person who was kept out of sex education and suffered abuse and this father who believes his daughter would be alive today if the updated curriculum were taught in her school.

School boards are also concerned.  As of writing this post, more than 20 school boards across the province have delivered statements highlighting the importance of providing up to date tools to navigate health, sexuality and relationships in today’s world.  In this regard, the Director of the Greater Essex County District School Board, Erin Kelly has stated:

“I assure parents, guardians, staff and community members that, regardless of the Health and Physical Education Curriculum being used, the Board will emphasize respect, inclusion and safety for all. We will continue to celebrate the diversity of all our students, support our LGBTQ community and teach about gender issues and acceptance and educate students on internet safety, cyberbullying and the importance of building and sustaining healthy relationships.” (https://www.publicboard.ca/Board/DirectorsMessage/default.aspx#/view/26)

What next?

There is still a lot of ambiguity around what might be taught in regards to health and physical education in September.  There are strong opinions expressed throughout the province about what should be taught and shouldn’t be taught.  Thrive! is a program which seeks to provide tools to help families navigate through the challenges and struggles of today’s world.  So we want to hear from you.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section and/or join us live on Facebook Tuesday, Aug. 7th at 7pm as we talk with a recent graduate about their thoughts on the health and physical education program.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/