News Release

January 26, 1995

Royal Commission on Learning provides a blueprint for changing Ontario schools

TORONTO--The five-member Royal Commission on Learning, in a unanimous report released Thursday, unveiled a new vision for education in Ontario. The report, entitled For the Love of Learning, provides a blueprint for changing Ontario schools to equip all students for the challenges of the 21st century.

Signalling the necessity to take bold new steps the four-volume, 550-page report is accompanied by an interactive CD ROM version as well as an 83-page short version. Commissioners Monique Begin, Gerry Caplan, Manisha Bharti, Avis Glaze and Dennis Murphy presented their report earlier in the day to Education and Training Minister Dave Cooke.

"This is a report that is both idealistic and practical," said co-chair Begin. "There is no question that, even taking into account the economic situation, we have the capacity to forge a truly excellent, high quality education system. This is what thousands of Ontarians, parents and students alike, told us they expect. Despite the apparently contradictory demands made of the school system, we sensed a substantial agreement: people want to do what is best for our youngsters. It won't be easy, but it's possible. The only question is whether we have the will to start, and I believe we do."

"Our bottom line is that we want the vast majority of Ontario students to complete high school as literate, knowledgeable, creative and committed young men and women. Our recommendations are geared to ensuring they know how to solve problems, and think logically and critically. They will be able to communicate articulately, work cooperatively, and most importantly, will have learned how to learn," said co-chair Caplan. "All our recommendations are designed to help every Ontario student reach this goal. But we have a long way to go."

The Commission makes 167 recommendations to produce sweeping change in the education system. Recognizing that conventional tools of school reform are not enough to change Ontario's massive educational system, the Commission redefines the primary and shared responsibilities of schools and recommends four fundamental `educational engines.' The four engines are:

  1. Teacher Professionalization and Development - No serious reform of schools is possible without the enthusiastic participation of teachers. Teachers are the heroes of education, but they must have greater support in playing their vital and difficult roles. The Commission recommends that teacher preparation be extended from one to two years, and, in recognition of the need to continually update knowledge and skill, that professional development be mandatory that all educators. An Ontario College of Teachers should be established as an independent professional body to determine professional standards and be responsible for certifying teachers and for accrediting teacher education programs.
  2. Community Alliances - Overburdened teachers cannot be as effective as they need to be with their primary role: enhancing students' intellectual competence. Community resources-parents, community organizations, social agencies, businesses and unions, religious, cultural and athletic groups--must share the non-academic tasks. The Commission recommends that every school create a school-community council, with staff, parents, students and community representatives, to better link school and community. At the provincial level there must be comprehensive reform of policy and programs for children for more effective co-ordination of services.
  3. Early Childhood Education - The Commissioners recommend that the province offer school readiness programs for all three-year-olds whose parents wish to enroll them. Such early learning can positively affect a child's success in school--children who experience high quality programs not only gain competence and coping skills, but also develop positive attitudes to learning. A secure, supportive learning environment at an early age is also a way of making sure that all kids have the same opportunities and that learning problems can be identified and addressed.
  4. Information Technology - In a world where computer literacy is becoming as essential as print literacy, information technology offers boundless promise. With the guidance of knowledgeable and well-prepared teachers, information technology is a powerful new tool that can re-shape the traditional nature of teaching and learning. Students can learn new problem-solving techniques as well as higher-order analytic and critical thinking skills. They also have access to worlds of information beyond the classroom undreamed of until now. Government and business must cooperate to provide schools with network links and appropriate technological resources.

Beyond these four `engines' the report makes further recommendations, all based on the overriding question: Do they improve teaching and learning?

HIGHLIGHTS OF RECOMMENDATIONS

Curriculum
Two kinds of courses plus common courses for Grades 10 through 12: Ontario Academic Courses and Ontario Applied Courses with an emphasis on applied skills and knowledge curriculum development to be coordinated centrally, with 10% local option
Destreaming
Destreaming from Grades 1 to 9, specialization from Grades 10 to 12
Phase out 13th year
Specialization completed within three years after Grade 9 savings realized by eliminating a year will offset some costs of early childhood education
Accountability
Province-wide uniform assessment of literacy and numeracy at end of Grade 3 province-wide `literacy guarantee' test in Grade 11 schools to inform parents of expected outcomes and standards for students in every course
Report cards
Ministry to design a common report card that is easy to understand
Office of Learning Assessment and Accountability
  • Reports to the Legislature
  • Responsible for province-wide uniform assessments in Grade 3 and 11
  • Watchdog for system performance
Funding
  • Equitable per-pupil funding to be determined centrally
  • All residential property owners to direct taxes to their chosen school system
  • Undirected taxes pooled and distributed on a per-pupil basis
Trustees and Boards
  • All trustees to be part-time and maximum honorarium for trustees $20,000 per year
  • Role of trustees is policy-making, not hands-on school management
Metro Public School Board
Phase out Metro Board after shifting responsibility for determination of funding to province
Parents
  • Parents' Charter of Rights and Responsibilities to clarify what parents can expect of schools
  • Participation in school-community councils
  • Parents to be made aware of what their children are supposed to know
Students
  • Students' Charter of Rights and Responsibilities
  • A voting secondary school student on every board
  • Systematic input from students concerning their schools
  • A provincial Student and Youth Advisory Council
French-language schools
  • Ministry to implement school governance by and for francophones
  • Funding for accelerated language retrieval programs and for animation culturelle
Catholic schools
  • Representation from Roman Catholic education at all levels of the Ministry
  • Maintain preferential hiring
  • All faculties of education to offer specific preparation for teaching in Catholic schools
Aboriginal Issues
  • Curriculum for all Ontario students to reflect more accurately aboriginal history, culture and contribution to Canadian society
  • Develop guidelines for the use of Native languages as languages of instruction
Special Attention to Minority Groups
  • Anti-racism policies, training for educators, inclusive teaching materials and methods
  • Teacher admissions that better represent Ontario demographics
  • Innovative programs to meet special needs of a particular group, as identified by community
Students with Special Needs
  • Integration of special needs students, with classroom support when necessary, other placements are appropriate
  • Acceleration as another option for gifted students
Schools and the Business Community
  • Family-friendly workplace policies to facilitate parents' involvement in schools
  • Participation in school-community councils
  • Business encouraged to expand its participation in cooperative education projects
  • Business to work with government in providing computers to schools

Since the Commission was established on May 5, 1993, the Commissioners have listened to 1400 submissions in 27 centres across the province and examined 3600 additional presentations. As well, the Commission conducted a special youth outreach program, reviewed the research in the field, met with experts and scrutinized education systems in many other jurisdictions.

The Commission recommends that the next step is for the government to appoint an autonomous implementation committee to oversee the recommendations.