TORONTO- The Ontario government is introducing a new sex-ed curriculum that will return to teaching gender identity and consent, and is raising the cap on high school class sizes as part of major reforms to the education sector.
The province is also introducing a new math curriculum, revising teacher hiring practices and banning cellphones in classrooms.
The new sex-ed curriculum will replace an interim teaching plan based on 1998 materials that was put in place last year after the Progressive Conservatives repealed a 2015 curriculum from the previous Liberal government. The 2015 curriculum addressed consent, online bullying, sexting, same-sex relationships and gender identity.
The government is also emphasizing that the new document will include teaching on abstinence, lessons on cannabis and earlier discussions on body image and consent.
The province says parents will still be able to opt out of having their kids exposed to certain topics in the sex-ed class, and the ministry will issue online modules for those who want guidance on discussing those topics at home. The full curriculum is expected to be released in May and implemented in September.
The government has also been consulting since January on class sizes and teacher hiring practices, including asking whether hard caps on class sizes should continue.
On Friday, the province said it will raise the cap for high school classes by six students, to 28. It will also raise the cap by one student for Grades 4 to 8.
It said Ontario high schools currently have one of the lowest student-to-teacher ratios in the country and the change will be phased in over four years.
Ontario high schools will also receive a revised curriculum on First Nations, Metis and Inuit studies, which the province said was developed in collaboration with Indigenous partners. That document is also scheduled to be released in May and put in place by the next school year.