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Backgrounder

Highlights of the new high school program

June 2000

The new program

Ontario's new four-year high school program ensures that the province's students will be well prepared for their futures in the competitive, global economy. It provides students with the knowledge and skills they will need to be productive citizens and to pursue careers in the contemporary marketplace. 

The new high school program: 

  • sets province-wide and clearly defined standards for course content and testing;
  • features more rigorous courses, designed by experts, in all fields; 
  • ensures all students have a well-rounded, comprehensive education; 
  • also enables students to choose courses to properly prepare for their futures at university, at college, in an apprenticeship program or in the workplace;
  • requires students to pass a Grade 10 literacy test and be involved in 40 hours of community activity; 
  • gives students opportunities to move to a different stream or course of study if their plans change. 

How we got here

Parents were concerned that the old high-school streaming model was too restrictive. It was based mainly on the level of difficulty of courses and many parents and educators felt it limited students' opportunities. 

In the old system, many students made early choices that limited their future options. This led to high dropout rates in basic and general level courses. And at the same time, the 50 per cent of students who went out to work immediately after graduation from high school often were not properly prepared for the workforce. 

Parents and teachers asked for an up-to-date curriculum that would include the latest developments in technology, science and world events. Employers, universities and colleges wanted students to be properly prepared for the workplace and post-secondary studies. And educators, parents and employers alike wanted students to have the language and literacy skills they needed to go on to further study and to be properly prepared for the workplace. 

Elementary and secondary teachers, college and university professors, subject experts, business professionals, and technology experts, as well as parents and students, worked to develop and refine Ontario's new curriculum. Expert writing teams prepared the content and there was careful and thorough evaluation by university, college, and workplace reviewers as well as other experts. 

More flexibility for students

Now, students will have brand-new courses from Grade 9 right through to Grade 12. They will also have a new and flexible course system, offering them more opportunities and more choices. 

In Grades 9 and 10: 

  • students take applied or academic courses. Both types of courses emphasize essential knowledge and skills and include a rigorous complement of compulsory courses, including math, English/Français, science, geography and history. They also have "open" courses from which to choose.
  • students take mostly compulsory courses along with some optional courses
  • students take a Grade 10 literacy test
  • students are able to change course types from Grades 9 to 10
  • students begin to spend their required time in community activities

In Grades 11 and 12: 

  • students choose their courses based on their plans once they finish high school, whether they intend to go on to university or college, enter an apprenticeship program or enter the workplace. They can also take "open" courses.
  • students take many of their optional courses and their remaining compulsory courses in such subjects as English/Français and math. 
  • students study more advanced material and concepts and develop skills in critical and analytical thinking
  • students can change their plans and take transfer courses designed to help them move into a different type of course.

Clear, consistent standards

For the first time, the province has established clear, consistent standards for what students across the province should be learning from Kindergarten through to the end of Grade 12. 

The new curriculum sets out what students will know and what skills they will have mastered at the end of each course. This also means that, for the first time, students who live in Espanola in Northern Ontario, for example, will study the same courses and meet the same expectations as students in Toronto and Cobourg in southern Ontario. 

Help along the way

Starting as early as Grade 7, students now prepare annual education plans that identify students' goals and course choices. Teacher-advisers help students develop these plans and, with parents, they monitor students' progress. A teacher-adviser is part-mentor, part education coach, who also keeps track of students' academic progress. 

Throughout high school, students have: 

  • teacher-advisers who help them develop annual education plans and determine what courses, co-op placements, specialized programs (including remedial support) and career opportunities they can and should consider. Parents are also actively involved in developing these plans. The government announced in March an additional $64 million in annual funding to support the teacher-adviser program.
  • standard report cards that clearly show students and their parents how students are progressing
  • supports to help them switch to courses they want to take if their goals change. If students want to switch from an applied or academic course in Grades 9 and 10, they will have special course material they can study on their own or through summer school to help them make the switch. In later grades, students will be able to take transfer courses to help them if they want to change streams.
  • supports if they need extra help, particularly in reading writing and math. 
  • new, practical courses they can take to help develop their writing skills, for example, or to help them refine their career plans. A Grade 12 open course is now available that emphasizes practical writing and communication skills for business and technology. In this course, students do research as well as write reports, business letters, manuals and brochures, integrating graphics and text and using technology for appropriate formatting.

Help for students with special needs

Students who require special education programs and services will continue to get the help they need when they reach the later grades of high school. Students, their parents and teachers will develop Individual Education Plans (IEPs) that are based on a student's strengths, needs and interests. 

The IEPs identify what students who need special education programs or services are expected to learn. They also outline how special education programs and services help students achieve their learning goals and the expectations that are set out in these plans. 

The government has increased funding for students with special needs by 12 per cent from the 1999/2000 school year to the 2000/2001 school year. 


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