After the Ontario Human Rights Commission called for a change in its recently released "Right to Read" report, the Canadian province decided to revamp its approach to literacy teaching in schools. According to the report, which combines data analysis with students' experience, at least one-third of the students graduate without reaching the literacy level recommended by the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Ontario authorities say they will end the current "three-cuing system" that encourages school children to guess and predict words using cues or clues from context and prior knowledge, and shift the focus to phonics instead. The Commission stated that 26% of all Grade 3 students, 53% of Grade 3 special education students, 19% of all Grade 6 students, and 47% of Grade 6 special education students were not meeting the provincial reading standard in 2018-2019.

The Right to Read report provides more than 150 recommendations to improve the situation. Chief Commissioner Patricia DeGuire said that Ontario is not using evidence-based methods to teach early reading, which led to the poor outcomes observed. "As a result, students with reading disabilities and other students are failing to learn to read," said DeGuire.

Meanwhile, Minister of Education Stephen Lecce said, "Our government is committed to creating a highly literate workforce that gives young people the self-confidence and essential life and jobs skills they need to succeed." He added, "Ontario is overhauling the language curriculum with a focus on phonics, investing in new reading supports for students, and hiring more specialized staff to help put our province and country on a strong footing to compete globally and thrive economically."

The Right to Read study recommends applying a revised curriculum for children from kindergarten to Grade 8 featuring direct and systematic instruction in foundational reading skills as well as preparing the teachers on evidence-based approaches to teaching the said skill. Moreover, it recommends screening every child twice a year from kindergarten to Grade 2 in order to identify reading issues early.

Picture: Student with a lesson-book, by Jean-Baptiste Greuze (Wikimedia Commons, w/Effects)