The Ontario government revealed the new math curriculum for elementary students on Tuesday, unveiling a plan that will incorporate financial literacy and coding skills while also focusing on fundamental math concepts.
The new curriculum for Grades 1 to 8, which was created over the course of two years with the help of parents, math teachers, academics and math education experts, will come into effect this September. It was designed to improve math scores, which have been declining for a decade according to the government, while also teaching financial literacy, coding and computer programming, and other practical skills. Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Education Stephen Lecce released details of the curriculum in a media briefing at Queen’s Park.
“This is the first new elementary school math curriculum in 15 years,” Ford said. “It’s clear that a lot has changed since 2005 and our children’s education needs to change with it. For the first time ever in Canada, students from Grades 1 to 8 will learn coding along with financial literacy skills as part of the math curriculum.”
Students will start learning coding skills in Grade 1 while financial literacy will be incorporated into all grades with lessons on saving and spending in Grade 4, budgeting in Grade 5 and financial planning in Grade 6. Ford also revealed that Grade 3 and 6 students will not complete Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) assessments for the 2020-21 school year.
When asked about implementing the curriculum in the midst of a pandemic, Education Minister Lecce defended the decision to put the curriculum into effect this fall.
“We’ve got to do better at the foundations of math,” Lecce said. “Numeracy, financial literacy, these are the things that we know we need to do better at, and so I appreciate the broader challenge around us, but we must move forward with these necessary reforms to give hope to these students that when they graduate, they can aspire to get a good paying job.”
NDP education critic Marit Stiles is among those who have criticized the government for the timing of the curriculum changes, calling the decision “completely irresponsible” in a statement. The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) also released a statement saying that the two-month timeline set by the ministry will not allow for successful implementation of the new curriculum.
“This spring, the disparity in accessing learning resources has deepened inequities and had an impact on student learning outcomes that will carry over to the coming school year,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond in the statement. “Taking care of students and narrowing those gaps must be the priority of educators, which is why the government’s cancellation of EQAO standardized testing this coming year in elementary schools is important. However, more flexibility, time and resources will be needed to effectively implement the new curriculum.”