New program pretty much like the old program
After nearly a generation, Ontario has updated its 18-year-old Health and Physical Education Program. And the new program is… pretty similar to the old program. It is not often a new provincial initiative finds the broad consensus the 2015 revision of the Health and Physical Education has. Even the media, including the Mississauga News grasped the need for the new curriculum.
Save for a single inappropriate question by an opposition backbencher, the number of questions asked in the Legislature about the new Health and Physical Education program by both opposition parties: none. The news media editorialists all understood it. The opposition parties’ education critics grasped it. The school boards, teachers, and school councils agreed. The police forces and childrens’ aid societies support it. Most important was the reaction of the kids themselves. They wanted to know what was happening with their bodies at the time the changes were taking place, not years later when life-changing damage may have been done. That is what they now have. Doctors and health professionals agree that the new program helps kids avoid infections and diseases that are completely preventable if they understand the changes that puberty brings to their bodies.
Health and Physical Education in perspective:
The other Canadian provinces and most U.S. states have health and physical education programs in place that are substantially the same as what Ontario will implement in its updated programs;
Most of the elements of the revised Health and Physical Education Program were already in the existing program that had been taught in Ontario schools for the past 17 years. The new elements focus on social media (Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram, Pinterest and the like), cyber media that did not exist when the last version of the program had been introduced;
Experience in the last two decades has shown that students need to better understand such topics as: healthy relationships; having the confidence to say “no;” the safe use of technology and the Internet; mental health and inclusive communities. In the last 17 years, kids have instant and broad access to information from unreliable and inaccurate sources, mostly on the Internet.
Consultations included parents, students, teachers, faculties of education, universities, colleges and numerous stakeholder groups including the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), the Ontario Public Health Association and the Ontario Healthy Schools Coalition. More than 70 health-related organizations submitted reports for consideration. Thousands of parents provided their input.
As an MPP, I am with the kids on the Health and Physical Education Program. The kids want to know what’s going on with their bodies and in their relationships, and to be able to talk about issues in a supportive environment among people they trust. The kids want to understand what’s happening with their bodies at the time the changes are taking place! It is never too early to tell kids the truth about their bodies at the time changes in their bodies are taking place. And that’s what the Health and Phys-Ed program does.
Changes from the existing curriculum:
- The new curriculum includes badly needed material on cyberbullying to protect students;
- The new curriculum includes information on sexting, body parts, consent, mental health, and other life-saving skills for girls and boys;
- There is new information for students about the importance of standing up for themselves;
- Teaching on mental health will now be introduced in the primary grades, and built upon as students get older;
- The new program helps kids stay safe and healthy by having access to accurate, timely information on their bodies and the issues they encounter at the same time as the issues arise, and the changes occur;
- The curriculum includes new information about safe online communication, including “sexting,” learning about diversity, including gender identity and sexual orientation, healthy relationships and consent and mental health.
Reliable information on the new curriculum:
- The Ontario Ministry of Education has extensive documentation and guides for educators, parents, and students on its web site;
- Parents with questions should download the Guide to the new Health and Physical Education Program. More information on the program is available through web links to the Ministry of Education in the Parent Guide;
- Toronto Star columnist Martin Regg-Cohn’s column accurately summarizes the new program.