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Building an Education System for All Students to Achieve their Full Potential

Archived Backgrounder

Building an Education System for All Students to Achieve their Full Potential

Office of the Premier

Kindergarten to Grade 12

Education is the cornerstone of a strong, fair and prosperous province. The Ontario government is committed to building an education system that helps students learn and grow and prepares them to compete in the changing global economy.

In 2014, Ontario became the first province in Canada to completely implement full-day kindergarten (FDK) for four- and five-year-olds. FDK is an investment in every family and child and in the shared future of the people of Ontario. FDK saves families up to $6,500 a year per child in child care fees and gives their kids the best possible start.

More students than ever are graduating from Ontario schools, with the high school graduation rate now up to 85.5 per cent. That's more than 17 percentage points higher than 2004, when the rate was just 68 per cent.

This success is possible because of the partnership among Ontario's students, parents and world-class educators -- teachers, support staff, principals, vice-principals and school boards. Ontario will continue to partner with educators to ensure their work environments are safe and welcoming.

To build on this success, students and educators need the best in-class facilities to learn, teach and support. That's why the government has invested more than $15 billion in school infrastructure, including nearly 760 new schools and more than 735 additions and renovations.

In the 2016-17 school year alone, Ontario's school boards are opening 29 new schools, with an additional 16 schools having undergone major additions and renovations. Over the next two years, the province is investing $2.7 billion in school repairs and renewals, $1.1 billion more than the $1.6 billion initially planned for school repair funding.

Compared to three years ago, Ontario's investments in annual school renewal funding have nearly tripled, from $473 million in 2013 to $1.4 billion in 2016.

The government is also continuing to focus on student achievement by building on gains in areas where students are succeeding, such as literacy, and targeting more support where they need it, such as numeracy.

The government is concerned about the recent decline in provincial math scores and has introduced new math supports to help students acquire the numeracy skills they need to pursue their interests in the knowledge-based economy. This includes all elementary schools having up to three math lead teachers.

In a diverse and multicultural province, Ontario schools welcome learners from around the world and from all kinds of backgrounds. Regardless of first language or socio-economic status, 80 per cent of Ontario students now meet or exceed provincial standards in literacy. But we need to keep building on that success, ensuring that all students -- regardless of their background -- are able to succeed including students with special needs.

To continue to strengthen the education system's success, Ontario launched Achieving Excellence -- a renewed vision for education. That new vision lays out the government's focus for the system in the coming years, specifically:

  • Achieving Excellence: Children and students of all ages will achieve high levels of academic performance, acquire valuable skills and demonstrate good citizenship. Educators will be supported in learning continuously and will be recognized as among the best in the world.
  • Ensuring Equity: All children and students will be inspired to reach their full potential, with access to rich learning experiences that begin at birth and continue into adulthood.
  • Promoting Well-Being: All children and students will develop enhanced mental and physical health, a positive sense of self and belonging, and the skills to make positive choices.
  • Enhancing Public Confidence: Ontarians will continue to have confidence in a publicly funded education system that helps develop new generations of confident, capable and caring citizens.

This work includes continuing to make investments in initiatives like the Specialist High Skills Major program that offers high school students the opportunity to match their skills and interests with a career path while earning their high school diploma. Specialist High School Major continues to expand every year. In 2015-16, the program expanded to serve an additional 2,000 students across the province. Students can choose from 19 different sectors including aviation and aerospace, health and wellness and transportation to help them prepare for apprenticeship training, college, university or the workplace. As well, a Specialist High Skills Major pilot program is being expanded to train more students in skills that are increasingly valued in today's economy, including innovative thinking, problem solving, creativity and entrepreneurship.

Another example of curriculum-based initiatives is the Dual Credit program that helps students who face barriers in graduating high school to earn credits that count toward their high school diploma and a postsecondary certificate, college diploma, degree or apprenticeship certification. In the 2016-17 school year, the program was expanded to include 20,000 students across the province.

With more students graduating high school than ever before, the government has increased the number of Ontario students attending postsecondary education. University, college and apprenticeship enrolment is up 38 per cent since 2003.

That is an increase of 174,000 students in postsecondary education compared to 2003. The province is taking a number of actions to ensure the number of young people choosing a postsecondary education continues to grow. Both within the K-12 system and by overhauling student financial assistance, every young person will have the support they need to attain an advanced postsecondary degree or diploma.


Postsecondary education presents multiple pathways to learning and a lifetime of success, from college to university to apprenticeship. Today, more Ontario students are graduating from postsecondary programs than ever before. Approximately 67 per cent of college students graduate, which is an increase of 9.9 per cent over 2003. And 33 per cent of Ontarians have a university-level education, the highest rate in Canada. While these numbers are impressive and represent a postsecondary attainment rate that exceeds the Organisation for Economic  Co-operation and Development's average, there is more to do to ensure all Ontarians are ready to enter the workforce in the changing global economy. That is why the government has set a postsecondary education attainment rate target of 70 per cent.

Ontario has a number of programs designed to support and encourage students to join a trade, including the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program that allows students in high school to begin training for a career in the skilled trades. Students can earn cooperative education credits by participating. They may also be able to register as apprentices while working towards the Ontario Secondary School Diploma. Work experiences may be available in a wide range of trades in the automotive, construction, manufacturing and service industries.

For the next generation to have more opportunities in life, a postsecondary education should be attainable for all who qualify, regardless of family income. That's why in the 2016 Budget, the Ontario government introduced the most ambitious changes to student aid in North America with reforms to OSAP. The new Ontario Student Grant (OSG) will make the average cost of college and university tuition free for thousands of low- and middle-income students. It is the single-largest modernization of student financial assistance in Ontario. The OSG will give students better, more upfront financial support. It will mean students can borrow less and graduate with lower levels of student debt. It is estimated that about 150,000 students will benefit from the OSG when it is implemented in 2017. The government is also eliminating the provincial portion of student loans for students with a family income of less than $50,000 and making it easier for mature students to qualify for financial assistance so they can go back to school to upgrade their skills.

As it does at the K-12 level, the government recognizes the importance of providing students and educators with modern learning facilities. Since 2003, the government has invested $3.8 billion in capital funding for Ontario colleges and universities.

At postsecondary institutions across the province, the government is building new campuses and modernizing old labs, and helping Ontario students to get the best possible start in their adult lives as they gain valuable skills.