Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Ontario has one of the best education systems in the world, says minister

Published:Sunday | May 28, 2017 | 5:00 AMNeil Armstrong
Mitzie Hunter

Ontario's Education minister, Mitzie Hunter, believes that the province has one of the best education systems in the world.

She says that she has seen how teachers, school leaders, and educators are working every day on behalf of students.

The minister said that she has also seen the brilliance of the province's students and the fact that they are striving to do their best.

This the kind of culture that she wants to see in schools, one that supports young people to be their best.

"I see our education system from a very wonderful perspective. My goal is to get into one school each week," said Hunter on the telephone shortly after visiting the John Polanyi Collegiate Institute in Lawrence Heights, recently.

Hunter said that Ontario's 2016 graduation rates have reached a historic high 86.5 per cent of high school students are graduating within five years - something she describes as a "remarkable achievement".

This is up more than 18 percentage points compared to the 2004 rate of 68 per cent. The number of students graduating in four years continues to grow and is now 79.6 per cent an increase of more than 23 percentage points since 2004.

"It's due to the hard work of all of our students and their parents and also the great education workers that we have - all of our teachers, our education assistants, even our secretaries, and those who keep our school humming, those custodians that keep it a place of well-being and just keep everything functioning."

She also referenced all of the of the school leaders principals and vice-principals.

Hunter said that she visited a school in Oshawa in early May, and it was remarkable how that team was focused on students, their well-being, and their achievement.

FURTHER IMPROVEMENT

"What that school principal and vice-principal said to me, as well as the school achievement officers, they said that they work to know the names and what is happening to every student in their school. I was very proud to be in that school to see the efforts that everyone was making so that Ontario students get the best education."

Hunter said that the government is investing in its recently announced budget of CDN$23.8 billion in Ontario's education system. this is an increase over last year of CDN$849 million.

Much of this is being invested in areas in which the government still wants to see further improvements.

"Much of that is being invested in special education, students at risk, and in areas that we want to see our schools improve even further," she said.

Hunter added: "I know that we're preparing the next generation in the best possible way so that they have the skills that they need to move on to pathways in life."

The government also launched the new Career Kick-Start Strategy as part of the budget, which is aimed at students getting their first job.

She says the new OHIP+: Children and Youth Pharmacare Program, which starts in January 2018, is one of the most exciting aspects of the recently announced provincial budget.

She underscore that this is the first balanced budget since the global recession and that Ontario is the first province in Canada to step forward with universal pharmacare for everyone under the age of 25.

Youth and students will be able to go to a pharmacy, present a prescription, and receive medication at no cost.

"This is an incredible transformative programme and it really demonstrates that our government is investing in people and ensuring that we invest in the health of our people."

This is part of CDN$7 billion in three years that the government is investing to help in many aspects of health care, including universal pharmacare, she said.

In the budget, the government notes that it is taking action on improving students' cognitive, emotional, social, and physical development with programmes and services focusing on their well-being and mental health.

Hunter said that as part of this, over the next three years, the government would be investing an additional CDN$49 million to promote and to support the well-being of Ontario students.

"This move forward will transform our education system. We're going to be working with our education partners because we know that there are many good practices out there in our school boards. So we want to build on that, and we want to ensure that this is integrated across our education system."

Hunter wants to ensure that schools are places of well-being and places that "really look at that whole student, whether it's physical, cognitive, emotional, or social."