Ontario Unveils a Back-to-Basics Kindergarten Curriculum

New mandatory learning will focus on literacy and math skills for the province’s youngest learners

Minister of Education Stephen Lecce visits a local Kindergarten (image source: X / @StephenLecce)

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 instil 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.

“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.”

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.

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.

Quick Facts

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The province introduced early reading screening in September 2023, which includes standardized screening tools and supports for training for educators. In addition, up to 700 teachers with specialized expertise in early reading will continue to provide targeted instruction to young students who would benefit from more support. Eligible students in kindergarten through Grade 3 will receive additional instruction one-on-one or in small groups if they need help to become stronger readers.
  • 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.


“The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) supports the Ontario government’s Back to Basics kindergarten curriculum. 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.”

– Patricia DeGuire
Chief Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Commission

“At CDI, our evidence-based mental health services for children and youth have proven to build healthier families and safer communities. We are delighted to see our partners in the education sector adopt evidence-based approaches to supporting children’s learning and development.”

– Andrew Reddin
CEO, Child Development Institute

“At the Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation, we work collaboratively to drive systemic changes that address Canada’s literacy crisis. The Ontario government’s announcement — that the kindergarten curriculum will be revised based on the science-aligned reading instruction practices recommended by the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Right to Read Report — is an important step forward. A strong foundation in language and literacy skills, starting in early childhood, is critical to ensuring children thrive educationally, socially, and emotionally, in school and beyond.”

– Ariel Siller
Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation

SOURCE Province of Ontario

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