Lecce’s curriculum changes a welcome move

Lecce has launched another series of welcome changes to the education system that will benefit our students and improve their chances for success. Pictured: Education Minister Stephen Lecce. Photo Credit: Stephen Lecce/X. 

Perhaps the Toronto Star headline, summed it up best – “Taking the home ec out of the kitchen.”  The story refers to Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce’s recent and welcome announcements of changes to next year’s high school curriculum.  

In his letter to parents announcing the changes, Lecce said: “What we hear from parents and employers and from students alike, is the need to learn to cook and understand good nutrition, basic skills…knowing how to shop on a budget and applying basic first aid…. we’re making these changes to help students prepare for life well beyond the classroom.”

The changes will also include a mandatory course in financial literacy, including a test that students must pass in order to obtain their high school diploma. 

“Too many young people, notwithstanding valiant effort in our schools, are graduating without those fundamental financial literacy skills,” Lecce said. “This forces all of us, educators, government, families and students to…. elevate that knowledge from theoretical….to practical knowledge that they can apply every day.”

Amen to that. Some may argue that teaching students life skills is the domain of parents, not teachers. But it is clear that too many young people today are not getting what they need at home, particularly students from high needs neighbourhoods. Hopefully, this will help. 

There was certainly a long list of stakeholders welcoming the changes from the Business Council of Canada and the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education to Skills Ontario, the Ontario Home Economics Association and the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario.  

Consultations with parents, students, educators and others will also begin this fall to fine tune the execution of these significant changes in curriculum. It is a wise move for many reasons.  

First, Lecce needs to ensure that there will be qualified teachers and guidance counsellors available to teach such courses. Karen Littlewood, head of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation raised the concern, noting that there are fewer and fewer specialized teachers in the system.  

Lecce announced some early steps in this direction, including requiring new teachers to hold basic competency in math, overhauling the curriculum for guidance and career education teachers, expanding career coaching and strengthening qualifications and training for guidance counsellors. 

Lecce will also need to set some priorities as to what will be taught as the suggested list of potential topics is long, including balancing a cheque book, avoiding financial fraud, shopping on a budget, first aid, understanding family dynamics and understanding good nutrition to name just a few. There are only so many hours in the school day and the government has already raised the bar on important subjects like math, science, literacy and Canadian history.

As Littlewood said: “I don’t have a problem with giving kids the skills that they need, but it feels like they’re continually adding more compulsory components into the curriculum without any sort of acknowledgement of how we’re keeping up with what we are already doing.”  

No doubt, there will also be the usual argument between the government, teacher unions and school boards about needing more resources to implement the changes. While Lecce did announce some additional funding for career coaching in Grades 9 and 10, more could be needed. The consultations should help the government to ensure they have set a realistic budget that will successfully support the reforms.  

Teachers particularly need to be cautious about pushing this, their usual complaint about anything the government announces, given that they have just received an arbitration award of an 11 per cent increase over four years. The good news is that the new long-term contracts should give the system four years of peace to focus on students instead of labour disputes.   

In the meantime, Lecce has launched another series of welcome changes to the education system that will benefit our students and improve their chances for success.  

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