Ontario unveils a Back-to-Basics Kindergarten Curriculum

From the Government of Ontario
Press release

TORONTO — The Ontario government is taking continued action to emphasize back-to-basics learning by introducing mandatory learning through clear and direct instruction in reading, writing and math for kindergarten students. Combined with hands-on and play-based learning, this new kindergarten curriculum will ensure students entering Grade 1 across the province have the foundational skills in literacy and math and intellectual growth that will help set them up for long-term success.

All students will soon benefit from evidence-based clear and direct instruction in literacy for the first time to build their vocabulary and instill a passion for reading and writing. New and mandatory learning will include the understanding of sound-letter relationships, developing phonics knowledge and using specific vocabulary. For example, as children are constructing a house with building blocks and other materials, the educator would intentionally use new words to build student vocabulary.

Currently, kindergarten students learn from a “program” that was developed eight years ago. To elevate this learning and ensure the curriculum prepares all students for success, Ontario is advancing consistency and enhanced academic rigour for students. The driving force for this reform and focus on boosting literacy is recommended by the 2022 Ontario Human Rights Commission Right to Read inquiry report, which identified that Ontario’s kindergarten program was failing to teach many students to read and promote reading confidence.

“It’s critical that our youngest students develop core foundational skills earlier on in their lives,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education.

“That is why we are introducing a new kindergarten curriculum that will help to lay the foundation for strong reading, writing and math skills from day one. Our government will continue to relentlessly advance back-to-basics education that restores the focus on academic achievement, common sense and excellence in literacy and STEM disciplines.”

In September 2023, the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) released its annual student assessment results that demonstrate encouraging progress in student outcomes. In April 2023, Ontario Launches Plan to Boost Math, Writing and Reading Skills which invested more than $180 million in targeted supports in the classroom and at home to help students build the math and reading skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the workforce.

New learning expectations are also being added to the kindergarten curriculum. In math, clear and direct instruction in foundational numeracy skills will be provided to all students in addition to daily opportunities to explore math concepts through regular classroom activities. All students will start to learn about fractions, coding and patterns earlier in their education. These new lessons will build foundational math concepts and skills that are the gateway to the disciplines of science, technology and engineering, as well as construction, skilled trades and architecture.

Early reading intervention is part of the province’s response to the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s (OHRC) Right to Read Report. As such, the province is focused on modernizing the way reading is taught and assessed in schools to help improve student literacy.

“The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) supports the Ontario government’s Back to Basics kindergarten curriculum,” said Patricia DeGuire, chief commissioner for the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

“The literacy scheme aligns with key recommendations in the OHRC’s Right to Read Inquiry Report of February 2022, which called for critical changes to Ontario’s approach to early reading for students. The recommendations include adapting a new Kindergarten Programme that utilizes direct and early systematic instructions in foundational skills such as reading. This government’s Back to Basics approach is evidence-based and aligns with the OHRC’s recommendations. It commits to ensuring that every child is equipped for their educational journey and to reach their full potential.”

The changes and supports, which will be in place starting in September 2025, are the next step in Ontario’s plan to modernize the curriculum and ensure every student has the skills to succeed in the classroom and prepare them for whatever path they choose. To further support students in the development of early reading skills, the province is investing $65 million over the coming years to support reading intervention. An additional investment of $12.5 million will be directed toward procuring licenses for a ministry-approved, evidence-based early reading screening tool for use in Year 2 of kindergarten to Grade 2.