The most shameful aspect of Ontario’s former Liberal government was its abject mismanagement of Ontario’s public education system, reflected in the steady, significant and shocking (though, perhaps, not surprising, in light of the content of their policies) decline in math education in this province.
This decline is evidenced, most recently, by the release of grade 6 math test scores showing that only 49% of grade six students are meeting provincial standards. We have an education system which fails to impart key skills to just over half its students. Shocking on it’s own, but all the more so since, as recently as a decade ago, that number was 63%. Similar declines show up in grade 3 math testing and in international PISA test scores. The Liberals took an education system that was not particularly good at teaching math in the first place (that only 63% of grade 6 students made the grade in 2008-09 was scandalous enough) and made it much, much, worse.
None of this should be a surprise to anyone, the decline in the quality of math education in this province has been obvious to anyone who cared to look. Test scores have been trending down over the past decade and private math tutors – once rare – are now commonplace for the children middle-class families (in yet another example how left-wing “progressive” policies hurt the poor – they can’t afford to mitigate the adverse effects of bad government policy). Although the sex education curriculum dominated the headlines, the abject failure of the Liberal’s ill-conceived “discovery” math curriculum was obvious to most parents and almost certainly played a more significant role in their near decimation in the last provincial election.
And rightly so. A sound math education is essential for the development of productive and participating citizens in a modern liberal democracy. And without a sound grasp of mathematical first principles, students are likely to struggle with the more complicated concepts that they will need to succeed in a modern technological society. The Liberals have failed an entire generation of Ontario’s children.
Nor do Ontario’s teachers get a free pass here, the same teachers who are threatening to refuse to teach the Conservative governments new sex education were remarkably silent about the introduction of the radical and (predictably) disastrous Liberal math curriculum. Of course, the Conservatives are unlikely to continue the past Liberal practice of funnelling millions of dollars to the teachers unions.
The new Conservative government has said that reforming the math curriculum is one of their top priorities and has launched a much needed review of the math curriculum. Well, thank god for that, though it’s hard to imagine that they could do worse. In this area, at least, the “back-to-basics” instincts of Conservative education policy makers is likely serve them well.