By Mary V. Carver, P.H.Ec
As a Professional Home Economist, I support the need for mandatory Family Studies courses in Ontario elementary and high schools.
Current Ontario Family Studies (FS) education morphed from curriculum once known as Home Economics. Lessons are well-designed to nurture individual and family development through food, nutrition, parenting, financial literacy, fashion, and consumer education courses. Such deeply empowering lessons help students to become strong, healthy, independent contributing members of society. Students who receive credits in FS are better prepared to leave home, manage personal finances, eat nutritionally (and economically) and in time make wise consumer choices for their own families.
As a parent and former teacher, I wonder if we have become so focused on getting students ready for college or university, that we forget to prepare them for life.
Most people agree that everyone needs basic household management, cooking skills and nutrition knowledge – the core values of ‘Home Economics,’ why then, is the subject not given higher priority?
No Family Studies course is mandatory in Ontario. FS courses are mere electives. Therefore, only a small percentage of students benefit from this excellent curriculum.
Each day, we see evidence of a lack of essential life skills. An increase in childhood and adult obesity rates are primary examples. Sadly, almost a third of Canadians aged 5 to 17 are overweight or obese, according to Statistics Canada. We’re told that prevention is much less expensive than treatment. Should teachers not put the tools of obesity prevention in the hands of students by teaching them the fundamentals of healthy eating and how to cook?
Currently there are over 1 million university and college students in Canada; their lack of knowledge about food and nutrition creates a significant risk and cost to public health care.
Increasing rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes can be a result of poor eating/lifestyle habits. Mandatory FS courses in Ontario schools would help to reduce the prevalence of many health-related issues while preparing the next generation of parents for the responsibilities they face.
Over time the definition of ‘family’ as evolved. Eating habits and lifestyles have changed. Spending habits and debt carried by families have become major concerns. Families do not exist in isolation but are greatly influenced by what is going on in the world. FS curriculum must reflect that reality.
Updated and approved Ontario FS curriculum is ready to be implemented in September 2013, however, FS teachers have yet to receive expectations and guidelines from the Ministry of Education. The wait is frustrating to teachers and discouraging for students who have now waited several years for this transition.
I fully support comments by Mark Wales, President of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture urging Ontario ‘to bring back Home Economics in high schools,’ (Metro and The Toronto Star newspapers, April, 24, 2013.)
But why wait until high school to teach healthful eating? There appears to be a huge disconnect between people and the food they eat. There is a need for greater public awareness and consumer information around all aspects of food and nutrition and much of the learning could start in elementary schools.
Today, culinary skills are rarely taught in the home. Are parents too busy or have they lost the skill? Looking at the statistics, I see that almost an entire generation has graduated from high school with few practical home-making skills. Processed and fast foods have replaced many home-cooked meals. Basic food preparation skills and the ability to prepare healthful meals from scratch incorporating Ontario ingredients are fundamental to the health of our youth and to local agriculture.
The Ontario Home Economics Association offers tips to help people make wise food choices, prepare nutritious and safe food, balance budgets and cope with a whole host of challenges of busy everyday life.
I am committed to prioritizing and implementing mandatory Family Studies curriculum in Ontario. I look forward to working with others to help secure a healthy future for our youth.
Ontario Home Economics Association © 2013