Ontario will be reverting to a sex ed curriculum that was last updated in 1998, and scrapping the controversial one introduced in 2015 by Kathleen Wynne, Premier Doug Ford’s government announced on Wednesday.
School boards are being notified about the change, which will come into effect for the coming school year, and Education Minister Lisa Thompson says the ministry will be moving “very swiftly with our consultations” with parents, with details of the process to be shared in the coming weeks.
The move fulfils another campaign promise from Ford, who tapped into opposition from parents who felt the Liberal curriculum changes went too far.
But the previous curriculum was seen by many as dangerously out of date for a world in which children have easier access to information, much of which may be false.
The curriculum brought in by the Liberals covers everything from consent to online bullying to puberty, but opponents have generally focused their criticisms on the introduction of content related to same-sex marriage, gender identity and masturbation. It also factors in things like social media, easy access to pornography online, and new technology that didn’t exist 20 years ago to covers topics like sexting.
Thousands of parents pulled their kids out of school to protest the new sex ed curriculum when it was first introduced, but many of those students have since returned.
We break down how each respective curriculum addresses some key issues.
The updated curriculum requires proper names for body parts, including genitalia, as well as the signs of caring and exploitative behaviour, to be taught in grade 1. Anatomical names of body parts were also part of the 1998 curriculum, but the new curriculum specifies that proper names for genitalia be included.
Grade 2 students were introduced to the concept of consent in the new curriculum, expected to be able to “explain the importance of standing up for themselves, and demonstrate the ability to apply behaviours that enhance their personal safety in threatening situations.” Reverting to the old curriculum means consent will no longer be taught as part of sex education in Ontario.
Gender identity and sexual orientation
The new curriculum taught students about different gender identities and sexual orientations in grade 3, as well as same-sex relationships, none of which were part of the old curriculum.
In Grade 4, they learn about puberty — a year earlier than the 1998 curriculum — and online safety, including how to respond to bullying. In Grade 5, the curriculum covers the reproductive system, the processes of menstruation and how to deal with the stresses of puberty.
In Grades 4, 5, and 6, the new curriculum taught students about protecting their privacy online, how to respond to bullying, the risks of sexting, as well as the potential consequences of spreading explicit sexual images online.
Oral and anal sex:
While there’s no mention of oral or anal sex in the old curriculum, the new curriculum gives teachers the option of using them as examples, in the context of delaying sexual activity, as well as preventing sexually transmitted infections.
“The world has changed since the sexual health education section of the curriculum was last updated in 1998 – 17 years ago,” says a government backgrounder on the new curriculum, which is still up online. “Research shows that children now enter puberty earlier. Young people now have widespread access to the Internet, social media and smart phones, giving them easy access to both helpful and potentially harmful and incorrect information.”