Ontario premier says new measures to help fix 'broken' education system

FILE PHOTO: Ontario Premier Doug Ford is seen after a meeting with Canada's provincial premiers in Toronto, Ontario, Canada December 2, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio/File Photo

TORONTO (Reuters) - Ontario is taking steps to make its “broken” education system more equitable for Black and indigenous students in Canada’s most populous province, Premier Doug Ford said on Thursday.

New measures include phasing out the so-called practice of streaming, when 9th grade students must choose whether they want to take university-track “academic” courses or hands-on “applied” courses in high school.

A 2017 report from York University in Toronto found streaming disproportionately channeled Black students into applied or vocational courses, while their white counterparts took academic courses.

Applied courses are seen as less academically challenging. The report said students and educators felt they affected self-esteem, discouraging students from continuing on to university.

Ontario is the only province in the country to still use streaming.

“It’s unfair and it’s not right to ask these students at such a young age to make a decision that will determine the rest of their high school and post-secondary careers,” Ford said at a press briefing in Toronto.

“At this age everyone needs the same foundations for learning ... The system is broken,” he said, adding that about half of the province’s Black youths were not entering the academic stream.

Other new measures include proposals to reform punitive suspensions for kindergarten to Grade 3 students, and strengthen sanctions for teachers who display racist behavior, Ford said.

Ontario is expected to reopen its schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic in September, although school districts are being asked to prepare for a range of reopening scenarios.

Reporting by Moira Warburton in Toronto; Editing by Tom Brown