Increasing class sizes limit student success

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Large classes don’t help anybody. From one-on-one teacher assistance to participation, smaller classrooms stop students from being lost in the crowd. If Ontario class sizes grow as mandated by the provincial government, student learning and comfort will diminish.

Ontario Education Minister Lisa Thompson is currently considering the possibility of increasing class sizes from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 3 to improve long-term educational costs. Rather than maintaining hard caps of 23 to 29 students, the government is considering switching to more flexible class size numbers. This is despite a similar experiment in British Columbia recently failing and costing the province $300 million.

Thompson hasn’t yet increased the cap size, but her exploration of the policy has far-reaching consequences. While the Ontario PCs care about reducing the provincial deficit, this move would only diminish education quality and decrease public approval.

Certain students have special learning needs requiring close work with teachers; others have behavioural or accessibility needs warranting more focus and attention. It’s critical we maintain a high educational standard throughout the province. The way young people receive schooling impacts their ability to excel in the future.

This won’t just impact certain students—it’ll impact all of them. In rural communities, students are often only able to access the school they attend. If that school loses its ability to provide a good education, its students lack alternatives. 

The education system exists to provide young people with equal opportunity, and the Ontario government has lost sight of that.  

As a government focused on employment opportunities, it’s disappointing Ontario can’t understand that a strong education levels the playing field as students develop and enter the workforce.

Governments allocate their resources based on priorities. Clearly, education doesn’t matter enough to the province to warrant their attention.

As other governments around the world focus on improving education, Ontario’s proposed change in class sizes sets the province back. Either our government fails to recognize the wide-reaching impact of this proposed decision, or it fails to empathize with the results.

In British Columbia, the government’s increased class sizes resulted in student disengagement, lost public support, and a high financial cost. Our province needs to learn from the mistakes of others.

Elementary school shapes our formative years, from developing learning strategies to teaching the importance of discipline. On every level—educational, financial, and political—an increased Ontario class cap size would permanently hinder that.

—Journal Editorial Board

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