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Opinions of Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Columnist: Eyiah, Joseph Kingsley

“Fie Ne Sukuul”

Parents and What is in the School Curriculum

By Joe Kingsley Eyiah, OCT, Brookview MS, Toronto-Canada

“All of us are students in the great school of life. All of us keep learning…or should…until the day we die.”-Ellen G. White

The topic I have chosen for this discourse is in the Ghanaian twi language which when literally translated means ‘home and school.’ This topic personally makes me nostalgic of my old elementary school days in Ghana (then Gold Coast)! What is a Curriculum?

A curriculum is simply defined as all the courses of study offered by a school or college. However, it is broadly defined as the totality of student experiences that occur in the educational process. Curriculum “refers to the means and materials with which students will interact for the purpose of achieving identified educational outcomes.” (www.education.com). The school curriculum is therefore designed to help learners achieve their goals of becoming successful in life in general and their chosen fields of studies in particular as they go up the educational ladder. However, areas of studies at the beginning are thrown at the learners.

As a teacher (in Ghana and Canada) I know that teachers appreciate how knowledge in our subjects is created, organized and linked to other disciplines. We, also, command specialized knowledge of how to convey a subject to students. It must be mentioned here that the curriculum is always developed by curriculum experts and approved by the government for use in schools.

The Controversy:

The controversial elements in the new Health & Physical Education Curriculum (especially the Sex-Ed document) for Grades 1-8 students in Ontario has prompted heated debate among parents. The curriculum was introduced first in 2010 but met strong opposition from the public so it was shelved by the government at that time.

This year, the government of Ontario-Canada has brought back the document with some ‘supposed revisions’. However, the new Sex-Ed document is clearly a more extreme document than its original 2010 incarnation. For example, Grade 3 students at the age of 8 will be studying gender as a changeable social construct. Here, the definition of gender in the document is disturbing. Homosexuality as part of it even makes it more sensitive and apprehensive to most parents who have read it. Another disturbing example is the teaching of masturbation as a ‘pleasurable’ way for children to learn about their bodies to Grade 6 students. According to the Campaign Life Coalition, “On February 23rd Kathleen Wynne's Liberal government finally posted the supposedly "new" sex-ed curriculum online, after keeping it secret for months. The sudden change in plans by the Wynne government, which had previously said the curriculum would not be made available online for several more weeks, saw it unveiled the day before a planned protest at Queen's Park. A primary motivation of Kathleen Wynne's with this timing was surely to get ahead of the story that a parental protest was likely to generate.”

Knowledge is Power!

The Prophet Hosea in the Good Book (the Bible) says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…. (Hosea 4:6)

I have personally spoken with some seasoned educationists living in Ontario on this new Sex-Ed Curriculum and this what one curriculum expert has to say, “The curriculum has been revised and on hold for several years. It is inevitable. The training for teachers to deliver in an age appropriate manner will be the key. I have dealt with 6year olds in sex cases. So some level of information is needed. I think there will be room for some flexibility.”

It must be noted that in Ontario parents have a right for reasonable accommodation based on religion. Schools are obligated to deliver expectations in the Ontario Curriculum. Parents should speak with their local schools in how the curriculum will be delivered. This is the best way to find out what and how your school will implement the new Sex Ed. Curriculum. Schools and Boards are unsure at this point so input from parents will have an impact how and what level of accommodations can be provided. Cultural will not be criteria for any accommodations. I know parents who have had their students absent for parts of the curriculum. Students do suffer an incomplete in their grades.

So how do we, as parents of students in public schools rise up to the occasion? First, we must thoroughly discuss the new document to gain knowledge on it. It is said that knowledge is power! Second, with such ‘power’ we can then correctly oppose the government on knowledgeable grounds about the new Sex-Ed curriculum. I encourage Ghanaian churches and ethnic associations to organize civil and educative forums to teach our young ones the right approach to sex-education. It is culturally difficult as well as embarrassing for parents to talk to their children about sex but the times are changing and we must find the appropriate language and means to engage our children in such important discussion. If we fail to do that we will be leaving our innocent/young children to the mercy of social media and the radical Sex-Ed curriculum! ‘Train the child the way s/he go…..Fie ne Sukuul.’ The debate goes on! What do you think?