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Educational equity in Canada: the case of Ontario’s strategies and actions to advance excellence and equity for students

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ABSTRACT

Canada prides itself for being multi-cultural, valuing diversity, and having educational outcomes that have been identified as excellent and equitable with above average performance and lower than average impact of socio-economic status and immigrant status in PISA. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, plus policies concerning child care, language rights, immigration, and Indigenous people have affected equity. However, there are long-standing and emerging inequities, particularly for Indigenous people. Within this context, this article examines the case of Ontario, a province which has become well-known for educational excellence and equity. Two main strands of system-wide strategies to advance educational equity are discussed. First, a focus on closing the gaps in educational achievement and improving student success. This strategy resulted in improved performance for students overall and reduced gaps in performance for sub-groups of students, including attention to gender, English Language Learners and Special Education Needs. However, these measures did not fully address other demographic factors, systemic inequities and multiple forms of discrimination. A second strand of work was developing strategies and actions to advance an equitable and inclusive education system, including a broader concept of equity to support students and staff with changes in classrooms, schools, districts and the province.

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