Ontario preparing ‘back to basics’ curriculum for kindergarten

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce spoke at a press conference Tuesday. Doug Gamey / Global News

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce is extending his “back to basics” curriculum push into kindergarten.

The government plans to spend the next year consulting on new mandatory learning to include in the kindergarten curriculum, including the foundations of coding, and plans to release it in the spring of 2025 for implementation that September.

Lecce said it will ensure students have strong reading, writing and math skills when they enter Grade 1.

“New learning expectations such as a focus on understanding sound-letter relationships, building phonics knowledge and using specific vocabulary words will be implemented, and to further build foundational math skills, students will start to learn in a very basic way about fractions and codings and patterns,” he said Tuesday at a news conference.

The government has introduced new elementary curricula in math, science and language in recent years, and Lecce often touts a “back-to-basics” approach.

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“The benefit of these (kindergarten) changes include a much smoother transition for students entering Grade 1, by aligning with other curriculum updates, as we’ve done with the entire elementary math, and language and science-technology curriculum,” he said.

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What will not change is the full-day nature of the kindergarten program, the current teacher and early childhood educator staffing model, or the play-based learning approach, officials said.

The changes will be about making curriculum expectations more explicit and clear, Lecce said, in response to recommendations from the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Right to Read report, which looked at how to address systemic issues that affect learning to read.

“Their overwhelming recommendation was to have more explicit, systematic, direct, province-wide expectations for instruction in foundational reading skills and we are doing that as part of this plan today,” Lecce said.

“We know that Ontario students are our future and it’s up to us to provide them with the skills necessary to set them up for long-term success.”

The current kindergarten curriculum has been in place since 2016.

Kate Winn, a kindergarten teacher who spoke at Lecce’s announcement, said the changes will help students.

“I am also pleased that some of the strong qualities of our existing kindergarten program, such as honoring play, will remain unchanged,” she said.

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“Explicit instruction and play are both essential for children and will complement each other as we move forward.”

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario expressed hope that there would be “adequate time to learn the new curriculum” and that there would be supports for planning and instruction.

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