The Ford government is looking to make virtual learning permanent, according to the Elementary Teacher Federation of Ontario.
On Thursday, the ETFO said that the Ford government is making virtual learning permanent, which undermines Ontario’s public education system.
“The move to virtual learning was never intended to be permanent; it was a temporary measure intended to deliver emergency instruction during a global health crisis. But, this was never the Ford government’s plan. It’s now clear that, throughout the pandemic, they’ve been working on a virtual learning plan that will divert funds from publicly funded education to private companies,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond in a statement.
“To be clear, this plan will negatively affect students, increase inequities, lower standards in publicly funded education, and put us one step closer to the privatization of public education.”
During the pandemic, the teacher’s federation said virtual learning has had detrimental impacts on student health and well-being.
Hammond noted that the Ford government agrees that in-person learning is “critical to the social and emotional health of students.”
“This is what they say drove their decision to keep schools open during the height of the pandemic when they failed to provide the appropriate safety protocols to protect students and educators. In fact, Minister Lecce has stated that there is nothing more important than returning students to school safely because it’s crucial for their development, mental health and future success,” he said.
ETFO said that in-person learning allows for better socialization and collaborative learning.
According to a SickKids document, they state that “full-time remote learning is insufficient to meet the needs of the majority of Ontario children and youth, leads to increased screen time and is likely detrimental to overall health.”
They add that the in-person school model is best for the educational and developmental needs of children.
The Ministry of Education said that online learning has been “absolutely critical” in ensuring students’ “continuity of learning throughout the pandemic and in mitigating learning loss.”
They added that consultation and engagement would continue with stakeholders on maintaining this choice for parents and ensuring its availability this September.
“The budget delivers additional investments in strengthening the online learning system, as well as a significant boost in broadband funding for families and schools across Ontario.”
The province is providing $1.6 billion less in education for the upcoming fiscal year.