Ontario first introduced high school requirements focused on home economy

Jun 5, 2024 | Provincial News

It won’t be your grandmother’s home-ec class.

The updated curriculum, announced by the Ontario government on Thursday, will reintroduce home economics as a requirement for graduation, a new home-ec that will stress financial literacy, including managing a household budget, saving to buy a house and how to detect financial fraud.

The goal is to better prepare students for life after high school. It will rely heavily on consultations with parents, employers and educators. It will stress giving graduating students a competitive advantage, advanced math education and building life and job skills.

Joel Nicholson, CEO of Youthfully, an education and career coaching organization, said the role of parents and the community in supporting the new curriculum is crucial.

“Parents are not just a ‘customer’ of the education system,” he said. “Parents need to know what students are learning at school, so they can adapt their parenting approaches to provide their kids the education they feel is missing.”

In 2025, Ontario students must complete a new financial literacy graduation requirement in Grade 10 that includes creating and managing a household budget, saving for a home, and protecting against financial fraud.

Students must score at least 70 per cent to meet the financial literacy graduation requirement.

Beginning on Feb. 1, 2025, the province will require all teacher applicants to pass the Math Proficiency Test to ensure basic math competence.

Nicholson said he expects a more modern take on the delivery of the home-ec topics, incorporating digital tools and an update on private-sector partnerships from new requirements.

“Financial literacy, career coaching and home economics are foundational components of comprehensive student development that should have always been integrated into our curriculum,” he said.

“Effectively teaching home economics today is very different than 25 years ago. Students have more allergies than ever before, schools don’t have the right appliances, diets are different and safety issues at school may require limitations to certain tools being used in the kitchen,” he said.

Nicholson said examples of how to modernize are leveraging virtual reality to learn how to make a particular meal or partnering with local small- to medium-sized restaurants to host on-site cooking experiences based on different dietary needs.

Ontario is reducing compulsory course groups to one, focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses and requiring a tech education credit for Grade 9 students starting in September 2024.

Nicholson said it’s difficult to understand the impact of these changes, which is a key part of the issue.

“It needs to be clarified what the north-star metric is regarding overall education quality,” he said. “We need to align on the ‘most important thing’ and map the KPIs (key performance indicators) that contribute the most to this metric. All changes in the curriculum should be tied to these metrics so that we can measure the precise impact reform has on the outcomes we feel are most important.”

NSM is a single key measure that reflects the amount of value that the new academic curriculum would bring to high school students.

Ontario is also updating its guidance and career education policy, reintroducing ministry-provided questions for student exit surveys in Grades 8 and 12.

Starting next school year, career coaches will support more than 315,000 students in small groups to enhance coaching and ensure consistency across the province, including providing career insights and labour market information and encouraging community interactions.

“The elephant in the room is AI, but it’s not incorporated in these reforms,” Nicholson said. “I’m sure they’re working up something because AI is, by far, the most important technology since the internet. It will fundamentally reshape how we work, the job landscape and nearly every industry,” he said.

Nicholson said the more fundamental problem is the school needs to teach skills. Currently, it teaches subjects.

“Yet, when you look at the desired learning outcomes, they always reference skills. Skills are what parents, employers and students want the most, not comprehension of a subject,” he said. “They can learn that anywhere and in a ‘just in time’ manner that is more relevant to their circumstance.”

Nicholson suggests that educational institutions should include life skills in the academic curriculum.

“Research shows that students forget an average of 90 per cent of what they have learned within a month because when you don’t use it, you lose it,” he said. “A skill is a process that students do daily, like problem-solving and storytelling. So let’s teach these processes as the core of our curriculum.”