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I have been an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator. Currently, I am a faculty member in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My M.Ed. and Ph.D. had a focus on the educational and linguistic experiences of children who moved from other countries to Canada.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Too many teachers in Ontario? Another piece to the puzzle which isn't being discussed...

Yesterday, the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities in Ontario announced that Bachelor of Education programs (commonly called "teachers college") would be extended to two years and that the number of student positions in each year would be cut in half (to approximately 4,500).

This has been discussed for a number of years and there have been lots of reports suggesting that Bachelor of Education programs in Ontario be extended. It's been interesting to read and listen to the resulting discussion (see Margaret Wente's article in today's Globe and Mail as one example - Overeducated and Underemployed). However, I think only part of the story is being told...

There are certainly some very real challenges to getting a job as a teacher in Ontario and, as a faculty member in a Bachelor of Education program who cares for his students, I certainly want to see each of them get a satisfying job AND contribute to making our education system an excellent one. In fact, I think that providing more practicum opportunities for new teachers is a great idea (being increased from 40 to 80 days). It should be noted that programs such as ours at WLU already do this. I also think that providing more education and support in areas such as special education, mental health, outdoor education, literacy/numeracy, and the arts will be beneficial to children - ultimately, the people we want to make a difference


I find it interesting that the changes are being couched in language such as "better preparing teachers" and "working to decrease the glut of new teachers without jobs" yet no one has addressed that Bachelor of Education programs in Ontario's publicly-funded universities are only one contributing source, albeit the largest, of new teachers in Ontario.

I did a quick search on the Ontario College of Teachers (the regulatory body for teaching in Ontario) and could not find a break-down of the number of teachers being certified from Ontario's publicly funded faculties of education versus private institutions in Ontario, those people certified from out-of-province, and those certified with international training. However, this Globe and Mail article (Ontario moves..) indicates that of the 11,000 teachers certified in Ontario each year, approximately 7,500 come from Ontario faculties of education. So 3,500 teachers are not coming from Ontario faculties of education. This also means that these teachers have no (or limited) training in the Ontario curriculum, no (or limited) classroom experience in an Ontario classroom, and no (or limited) knowledge of educational policy in Ontario.

I have three children in the Waterloo Region District School Board and I would hope that all of their teachers would come to their first day of teaching with a thorough knowledge of the Ontario curriculum, practicum experiences to hone their skills with the Ontario curriculum, and a solid knowledge of the Ontario legal framework (e.g. What are the Ontario expectations regarding Individual Education Plans for students with special needs? What are the Ontario guidelines for discipline and safe schools? What are the Ontario requirements for assessment, evaluation, and reporting? etc).

The changes announced yesterday indicate that we will be limiting those teachers who have a solid knowledge of Ontario curriculum, classrooms, and the legal framework but there is no limitation on those who can be certified who don't have this knowledge. Does this not seem strange?

So why are we not talking about the issue of certification of ALL teachers in Ontario and not just those who graduate from Ontario B.Ed. programs? I suspect that some (many?) of those who will now not be able to get into an Ontario B.Ed. will cross the border to Buffalo, go to Australia, or go to one of the private universities in Ontario to receive their teacher training. So have we really solved the problem of a glut of new teachers in Ontario?

This issue needs to be a part of the conversation and it hasn't been.

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