Ontario, please invest in people
Stop the proposed education cuts
One of my best friends growing up now lives in Singapore and I fondly recall a snippet from a conversation we had years ago when he was telling me all about the country: Singapore is a small island that doesn’t have many natural resources, so it invests in its people.
When the island country became a sovereign state in 1965, it was considered a third world country and a key part of their growth strategy was, in the words of its first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew:
“to develop Singapore’s only available natural resource: its people”
Singapore is now a major player in the global economy. One of their guiding principles is to invest in its people. It’s such a simple statement, yet so profound in my opinion.
Invest in people through education
What better way is there for a nation to invest in its people than through education?
Singapore indeed takes pride in its education system and values its best teachers. They consistently rank near the top in international rankings such as PISA. Canada does well, too, with Ontario playing no small part.
But Ontario’s current government now wants to cut back on education, on its investment in people, in a reckless way.
The policymakers know it will hurt students
The province is pushing to increase class sizes and make e-learning credits mandatory. These changes will significantly lower the quality of education for children. When first announced, then Minister of Education Lisa Thompson defended increasing class sizes by saying it will make children more resilient. That’s the best she could come up with. And Ontario’s own e-learning website cautioned that this form of learning is not suitable for everyone.
The government also refused to release the results of public consultations on class size, going so far as to block Freedom of Information requests.
But let’s get real — these changes were never about quality of education: they were about saving the province money on teacher salaries. As a result of these changes, many thousands of teaching positions are expected to be eliminated over the coming years.
Students need connection with caring adults at school
I believe that, next to parent and family influence, positive connections between students and caring adults at school is paramount to the well-being, safety, and academic success of children. To decimate the teaching force, as the government plans, would devastate our ability to ensure such connection for every student.
I think about coaches spending 100+ hours per season developing young athletes in sport and character (and some coach two or three seasons a year).
I think about indefatigable dance, music, and drama teachers staying late day after day, creating memorable experiences, and helping young artists and performers hone their craft and be confident in themselves.
I think about the teachers who run clubs to share with students something they’re passionate about, or just to try to help make sure there’s something for everyone.
I think about all the times I’ve seen a student in visible distress, but nobody was able to comfort them until that one particular teacher arrived with whom they had a connection, where mutual trust was established over time.
I think about my friend who had a former student come back to visit and thank her for saving her life, because one day she was considering taking it, but a heartfelt talk with her safe and caring teacher gave her hope and faith.
Here’s an unfortunate truth: even with all those teachers mentioned above, it’s not enough. There are still too many students without a positive adult connection in school, and the consequences can be tragic. The thought of working with even fewer teachers per student is, to me, demoralizing.
The government plans to eliminate thousands of teaching positions to save money, but that’s something we cannot afford.
Invest in people. Stop the cuts to education.