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The Global Search for Education: Meet the Minister: From Ontario – Minister of Education Mitzie Hunter

“It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes collaboration and a diversity of ideas to build a stronger education system for our next generation of leaders.” — Mitzie Hunter

I am pleased to interview for The Global Search for Education, the Honorable Mitzie Hunter, MPP and Minister of Education for the province of Ontario, Canada. Before the interview, I would like to share a brief background on the education system in Ontario.

As Minister of Education, Hon. Mitzie Hunter has several ways to inform policy, including a partnership table, the Minister’s Principal Reference Group, a Provincial Committee on Ministry Initiatives, and the Minister’s Student Advisory Council. These committees are made up of various education stakeholders, including directors of education, federation partners, principal associations, educators, and students. Ontario’s curriculum is based on extensive consultation and inter-jurisdictional research. Principals, along with all other stakeholders have ongoing involvement in the review of the curriculum policy through technical analysis, focus groups, revision writing, feedback consultation. The Institute for Education Leadership (IEL) is a third party comprised of representatives from principal associations, supervisory officer associations, directors of education, and senior business officials who provide advice regarding ministry policies and program initiatives.

Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario is currently the roadmap to ensure young people have the talent and skills they need in a global economy. The Ministry acknowledges that employers seek graduates with higher-order skills like critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity, entrepreneurship, as well as the ability to be financially literate and to participate in their local community through active citizenship and civic engagement. Play and inquiry-based learning is established in kindergarten and extended into other grades to promote problem solving, literacy, mathematics, and social skills.

Ontario continues to renew its curriculum to prepare students for the technology-driven and interconnected world. One hundred and fifty million dollars has been invested to transform education through enhanced technology including funding for digital technology and learning tools, software for Ontario classrooms, professional learning for educators, innovation research to build local capacity and support evidence, research-informed decision making for innovation scaling, and partnerships for leadership at every level. A recently enhanced professional development program for educators doubled the initial teacher education program to four semesters, doubled the practicum requirement to a minimum of 80 days, and introduced mandatory core content to provide a greater degree of transparency and consistency in what is being taught in Ontario’s publicly assisted initial teacher education programs. Mentoring for All provides funding for school boards to support collaborative professionalism and mentorship across a continuum of employee groups including Early Childhood Educators, Associate Teachers, Business/Support Staff, Vice-Principals and Principals, and other staff identified by boards. Programs, such as Cooperative Education, Dual Credits, and Specialist High Skills Majors are available to help students develop strengths, interests, and goals. The province’s Specialist High Skills Major program was expanded, increasing access to 48,000 students who will be enrolled in 1,835 programs across the province. This lets high school students focus on a career path that matches their skills and interests while meeting the requirements of their high school diploma. Additionally, the government is looking at ways to expand experiential learning to provide all students from kindergarten to grade 12 with a broader range of learning opportunities outside of school that are connected to the community. These opportunities and the province’s education and career/life planning program are outlined in Creating Pathways to Success Kindergarten - Grade 12.

In August 2015, the Premier appointed the Highly-Skilled Workforce Expert Panel to develop a strategy to help the province’s workforce adapt to the demands of a technology-driven knowledge economy. A focus on global competencies continues to permeate their work to ensure young people have the talent and skills they need to be prepared to lead in a global economy.

Hon. Mitzie Hunter, what kind of input do you think teachers and principals should have?

Ontario’s education system is successful because of our partnerships with educators – when we build and innovate together, we achieve outstanding results for students. I think it’s critical for educators, students, and stakeholders across the system to have a seat at the table when discussing the future of education in Ontario. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes collaboration and a diversity of ideas to build a stronger education system for our next generation of leaders.

What kind of curriculum changes do you believe are essential for students to succeed in a future labor market and in life generally?

I believe Ontario’s greatest natural resource is our people, and I think it’s the responsibility of good government to make sure that the education system our children experience prepares them for the world outside of the classroom.

In the past, we prepared our students with the skills they’ve needed to compete in the manufacturing economy. Today’s graduates compete in a whole new world rooted in the knowledge economy. We are focused on making sure that we are equipping students with the strengths needed to participate in a modern, highly-skilled workforce.

This means our focus on reading, writing, and mathematics is stronger than ever, as these foundational skills are the great equalizers needed to participate in this new economy. But to be able to succeed and achieve excellence in today’s rapidly changing world, students need a new toolkit of skills.

We have taken bold steps forward to incorporate opportunities into the curriculum to expand a child’s ability to problem solve, collaborate, think creatively, become financially literate and entrepreneurial, and build a better world by contributing to their community locally while thinking globally.

Knowledge is constantly being updated with new knowledge. Learning is more about becoming a critical thinker. Skills sets such as collaboration, innovation, and creativity are increasingly important. What steps are being taken to update and improve teaching skills and methods to accommodate a rapidly changing world?

A few years ago in Ontario, we took steps to increase the amount of time teachers train for the classroom by doubling the length of their Bachelor of Education programs. We believe the best way to position teachers for success in the classroom environment is by providing them with more practical, hands-on experience before they get there.

What initiatives are you working on to ensure high school graduates have the skills to enter local universities and succeed in the modern workplace?

As Minister, one thing that I am working on is developing a strategy to provide students with exposure and access to the science, engineering, and technology fields – and this includes looking at how we can get coding into the classroom.

We’re proud of Ontario’s booming tech sector and the knowledge and leadership that exists in the Toronto-Waterloo innovation corridor, similar to Silicon Valley. I’m interested in ways we can leverage this resource of information and talent.

How important is “global competence” to your ministry and what initiatives have you taken to ensure students are more globally competent than previous generations?

Working with educators, we are updating the curriculum and assessment practices for the teaching of the global competencies that are necessary for the current and future economy, such as critical thinking, problem solving, innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship, self-direction, collaboration, communication, global citizenship, and sustainability. If we don’t do this, we’re not helping today’s learners become tomorrow’s leaders.

(Photos are courtesy of the Ministry of Education Ontario)

C. M. Rubin and Mitzie Hunter

 

Join me and globally renowned thought leaders including Sir Michael Barber (UK), Dr. Michael Block (U.S.), Dr. Leon Botstein (U.S.), Professor Clay Christensen (U.S.), Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond (U.S.), Dr. MadhavChavan (India), Professor Michael Fullan (Canada), Professor Howard Gardner (U.S.), Professor Andy Hargreaves (U.S.), Professor Yvonne Hellman (The Netherlands), Professor Kristin Helstad (Norway), Jean Hendrickson (U.S.), Professor Rose Hipkins (New Zealand), Professor Cornelia Hoogland (Canada), Honourable Jeff Johnson (Canada), Mme. Chantal Kaufmann (Belgium), Dr. EijaKauppinen (Finland), State Secretary TapioKosunen (Finland), Professor Dominique Lafontaine (Belgium), Professor Hugh Lauder (UK), Lord Ken Macdonald (UK), Professor Geoff Masters (Australia), Professor Barry McGaw (Australia), Shiv Nadar (India), Professor R. Natarajan (India), Dr. Pak Tee Ng (Singapore), Dr. Denise Pope (US), Sridhar Rajagopalan (India), Dr. Diane Ravitch (U.S.), Richard Wilson Riley (U.S.), Sir Ken Robinson (UK), Professor Pasi Sahlberg (Finland), Professor Manabu Sato (Japan), Andreas Schleicher (PISA, OECD), Dr. Anthony Seldon (UK), Dr. David Shaffer (U.S.), Dr. Kirsten Sivesind (Norway), Chancellor Stephen Spahn (U.S.), Yves Theze (LyceeFrancais U.S.), Professor Charles Ungerleider (Canada), Professor Tony Wagner (U.S.), Sir David Watson (UK), Professor Dylan Wiliam (UK), Dr. Mark Wormald (UK), Professor Theo Wubbels (The Netherlands), Professor Michael Young (UK), and Professor Minxuan Zhang (China) as they explore the big picture education questions that all nations face today.

The Global Search for Education Community Page

C. M. Rubin is the author of two widely read online series for which she received a 2011 Upton Sinclair award, “The Global Search for Education” and “How Will We Read?” She is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland, is the publisher of CMRubinWorld and is a Disruptor Foundation Fellow.

Follow C. M. Rubin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@cmrubinworld