The association representing Ontario’s 2 million students says there are “gaps” between their education priorities and those of the Ford government, especially on issues such as bigger class sizes and mandatory online courses in high school.
The Ontario Student Trustees’ Association is also launching a survey to get a deeper look at how students feel about e-learning, from those who have taken online courses and those who have avoided them.
A recent survey by the association found that about three-quarters of students preferred an in-class experience.
“We’re hearing that there are gaps between the vision created by the vision-makers in this province and the reality experienced by students in classrooms,” association president Amal Qayum told a news conference at Queen’s Park on Monday.
She and Amin Ali — a Toronto District School Board student trustee who is also the association’s policy officer — unveiled a report called “The Students’ Vision for Education, which based on input from 20,000 youth.
It includes a review of streaming students in high school, better supports and resources for schools in Northern Ontario, safer school buses and “maximum commute times,” as well as changes to standardized testing.
“We are hearing that students, want, need and deserve change. We’ve heard our peers, and now it’s time for Ontario to act,” said Qayum, a student at Westlane Secondary in Niagara Falls.
Education Minister Lisa Thompson later said she encourages members of the association to meet with her.
“I want to work with them,” she told reporters at Queen’s Park. “When I announced my plan on March 15, I was sincere” in saying she wanted to hear from stakeholders, “making sure we are getting the learning environment right.”
The association is calling on the Ford government to put a halt on hiking class sizes by an average of one student from Grades 4 to 8, and an average of six students in high school.
While it is advocating for a more modern education system, the association says it can’t support forcing teens to take four mandatory online courses in order to graduate from high school “due to the severe equity issues, incomparable experiences students have with in-person classes and lack of research” on how effective it is, the report says.
Once implemented, Ontario would be the only jurisdiction known to mandate four online courses. A handful of U.S. states require one for graduation.
Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy