Ontario announces overhaul of kindergarten curriculum

Ontario will be overhauling the kindergarten curriculum with a focus on “back-to-basics” learning in reading, writing and math.

The changes, which were announced by Education Minister Stephen Lecce on Tuesday morning, will start in 2025.

Lecce said the new curriculum will combine hands-on and play-based learning to give kids foundational skills as they head into their elementary classes.

“The problem we’re trying to solve here is how do we create more consistency and daily application of those skills and that knowledge in the classroom,” Lecce told reporters at a Toronto school.

“This curriculum, this overhaul, I think will help to create more systemic approaches to reading instruction and the introduction, in a very basic way, of mathematical skills and numeracy skills.”

Elements of the literacy changes include an understanding of sound-letter relationships, developing phonics knowledge, and using specific vocabulary.

For math instruction, students will learn about fractions, coding and patterns, the government said.

“To give another example, students might share shapes or objects among their classmates to understand fractions,” Lecce said.

“The benefit of these changes include a much smoother transition for students entering Grade 1 by aligning with other curriculum updates, as we’ve done with the entire elementary math and language and science technology curriculum.”

The Progressive Conservatives have already made changes to math and language curriculums for students between Grades 1 and 9.

The language changes put a focus on “time-tested practices” such as phonics, cursive writing, digital literacy, word processing and critical thinking skills. It also includes a minimum of 30 minutes of “daily protected and dedicated time for reading instruction.”

In 2020, the Ford government revealed its new math curriculum with an emphasis on financial literacy, coding, algebra and data collection.

Grade 9 courses have also been de-streamed.

Despite these changes, an October 2023 report by the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) found that math and literacy scores have not significantly improved.

About 59.7 per cent of Grade 3 students and 49.5 per cent of Grade 6 students met or exceeded provincial standards when it came to mathematics, the EQAO reported at the time.

Grade 3 reading and writing scores were similar. About 72.6 per cent of students were at or above provincial standards for reading, a slight dip from the 73.2 per cent in 2021-2022.

The minister of education said the EQAO data represents a “modest increase” in reading and math.

Lecce also noted Tuesday that the kindergarten changes address challenges in an Ontario Human Rights Commission Right to Read report, which was released in 2022. More than 150 recommendations were made to address what they called “low expectations” for students. It found that at least one-third of students graduate school without attaining a level of literacy deemed necessary to function fully in today’s economy.

The last time the kindergarten program was updated was in 2016.

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