McGuinty Commits Government To Reach Excellence For Students
First Priority — Action To Ensure High Literacy And Numeracy Skills By Age 12
RICHMOND HILL -- Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said today that dramatic improvement in public education will be the centrepiece of his government's mandate.
"I truly believe that what is at stake, over the next four years, is the future of public education," McGuinty said in a major speech.
He said it's time to stop the slide in public education that has been marked by disturbing trends:
The number of children attending private schools has increased by 40 per cent over the last eight years.
Fifty per cent of the students who begin Grade 9 either do not graduate from Grade 12 or stop their education after Grade 12 -- despite estimates that 60 per cent of new jobs will go to people who study beyond high school.
"Our commitment is to develop the intellectual, emotional and physical potential of all our students," Premier McGuinty said. "Our program will ensure our students are among the best educated anywhere in the world."
The Premier said, starting this spring, a new focus in education will be to ensure students have a high level of literacy and numeracy before they reach age 12 -- so they experience success and can make the right decisions about their future.
The McGuinty government will measure progress against its goal that 75 per cent will reach the provincial standard on provincewide reading, writing and math tests by 2008 -- up from the slightly over half that are reaching this marker today.
Premier McGuinty outlined a program that includes:
Reducing class sizes from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 3 beginning this September.
Placing lead teachers specially trained in literacy and numeracy in every elementary school -- for the first time -- by the fall.
Establishing a provincial Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat to support and coordinate efforts.
"We are committed to a cap on class size of 20 students by the end of our mandate," said Premier McGuinty. "We will begin that work in the fall."
The Premier also announced that Ontarian Michael Fullan, one of the world's leading experts on positive change in education, is working as a special advisor to the Premier and Education Minister Gerard Kennedy.
"Public education must unleash the potential of every student," said Education Minister Gerard Kennedy. "And for that to happen, we must unleash the potential of public education, of every school, and every educator and support worker."
There will be increased funding for education in the May 18 Budget and budgets that follow, because this is the government's top priority.
"Resources are scarce. So to do what must be done in public education will require sacrifices, from all of us, and in other things people want from government. But they must be made because if we fail to do so, we don't just delay progress, we risk losing public education itself," said Premier McGuinty.
"We are asking everyone to join us in this commitment. Our children deserve the best education advantage we can provide. If we get public education right, we get the best citizens and the best workers, we strengthen our society and our economy. It's the key to providing a quality of life that's second to none."