Twenty Years and Counting: Examining the Development of Equity and Inclusive Education Policy in Ontario (1990-2010)
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Despite a long history of multicultural education initiatives in Ontario (Chan, 2007), Harper (1997) argues that “racially motivated violence, gender and sexual harassment, and cultural and class conflict that continue to occur in Ontario schools” demonstrate the need for new and better ways to respond to student diversity (p. 203). The Ontario Ministry of Education responded to these inadequacies by mandating that school boards develop equity and inclusive education policies, as specified in Policy/Program Memorandum No. 119 (2009) Developing and Implementing Equity and Inclusive Education Policies in Ontario Schools. Still, a considerable and observable gap exists between the goals of policy and the realities of practice in many Ontario schools. A necessary starting point in analyzing this gap is to examine the development of equity education policy in Ontario as documented in PPM No. 119 (2009). Relying on document analysis and policy analysis as the sole methods of data collection, I documented the ideological, socio-cultural, political, legal, and economic context from which PPM No. 119 (2009) developed in order to understand what groups of stakeholders were included in the development of PPM No. 119 (2009) and whose values the policy document ultimately represents. Collected documents that represent both the federal and provincial level of policymaking and a variety of regional stakeholders and policy actors illustrated that, despite a shift to focus on equity, conceptions of liberal multiculturalism continue to influence education policy in Ontario. Authoritative decision makers at the Ontario Ministry of Education ultimately trumped the recommendations made by a variety of stakeholder groups and policy actors during the process of policy decision-making. I concluded that the process of equity education policy development must become a more inclusive process, reflecting the identities, values, and experiences of school administrators, teachers, and students. However, if the goals of equity in education remain framed within the discourse of liberal multiculturalism and the hierarchical process of policymaking is not deconstructed, the goal of equity may continue to evade Ontario’s education system.