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Education reforms ‘too fast, too soon’


Secondary education could be taking a blow if the Ministry of Education and Training doesn’t stop with its hurried up legislation when it comes to education reform, local high school teachers warned yesterday.

Johnson announced his latest round of reforms for the new four-year high school program, which is supposed to start in September, 1999.

The proposals, which include 40 hours of mandatory community involvement for students on top of their 30 credits, have a lot of merit, admitted Andrew Hallikas, president of the local Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation.

But the timelines the Harris government is giving to implement the program is causing some concern, he added.

“We’re pleased to see they had taken some input [from their survey]," Hallikas said, referring to the province’s "Excellence in Education” handbook and survey distributed in the fall of 1996.

“What we’re seeing now has changed dramatically from what was originally proposed," he added. "[But] we think still the government is proceeding in a manner that’s too fast, too soon.”

Other highlights of Johnson’s proposals were:

ointroduction of a high school literacy test before the end of grade 10 to provide time for remediation and further testing for students who do not meet a passing standard;

othe establishment of a provincial partnership council to help expand co-operative education, work experience, school-to work and community involvement programs and increase private sector participation in them;

oa “streamed" system where students are either in applied or academic courses in grades nine and 10, and then "streamed” for university, college or work in grades 11 and 12 (the system is designed to allow students to switch streams throughout their high school career if necessary);

oa teacher-advisor system for students in grades seven to 11, where the advisor will monitor a student’s academic progress and be a key school contact for parents; and

oa prior learning assessment process that will allow students to receive a credit without taking a course if they demonstrate, through testing, that they can meet high provincial standards (with a maximum of four PLA credits allowed for each student).

One major concern teachers have, Hallikas said, is these reforms could call for every high school course to be rewritten.

Some fear the province will buy U.S. curricula to fill their schools while others worry the task will be downloaded onto classroom teachers.

Teachers who, under Bill 160, won’t have time to do it, Hallikas said.

Concerns also have risen over the teacher-advisor system Johnson has proposed.

“We do something similar here with grade nines only but what the government is proposing is for more in-depth work—keeping track of students, having conferences,” Hallikas said.

“It sounds again like our guidance counsellors are under attack," he added. ”Again, under Bill 160, teachers will have less prep time during the day. When will the teachers be doing this?

“With Bill 160 and the new curriculum looming on the horizon, there could be some very drastic changes [to high school education],” Hallikas concluded.

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