Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ontario Liberals would double teacher education time

If the Ontario Liberals win the provincial election, they state that they will require Ontario universities to provide two-year teacher education programs instead of the current one.  Included in an extended program would be more practice time in the classroom.

More professional learning by future teachers is very worthy.  An extended program could include working with students with exceptional needs (Special Education students), English Language Learners, plus a few extra electives such as Multicultural Education, Media, Reading, Writing, Kindergarten, advanced Physical Education, Music, and French.  The universities would love to offer extra courses as they would be able to charge full tuition to second year Teacher Education students.  Currently some school boards and unions charge reduced rates to their members to take equivalent Additional Qualification courses.

Student teachers could spend more time in the classroom through practicuums.  However, some school boards such as the Lakehead Public School Board can only take so many student teachers as it is a relatively small school board.  Lakehead University has a lot of candidates who require teaching placements.  Many candidates go to school boards outside Thunder Bay in order to gain practical experience.

If people were required to complete a two-year teaching degree, expect them to receive a Master of Education degree.  That would mean every new teacher would be starting at the highest rate of pay for a first year teacher.  Expect fewer teachers to take extra Additional Qualification courses since there would be little incentive to take these courses without respective pay increases.  This may seem selfish.  However, teaching is a profession where few people go into higher level positions.  Yes, teachers will still take daily workshops.  However, the costs will need to be paid by their school boards.

The Ontario Liberal news release mentioned that people in other countries spend more time in teacher education programs than Ontario's one-year education programs.  Ontario does have four-year teacher education programs that include courses in non-teaching subjects.  The Liberals did not mention how the programs in Japan, Finland, and Singapore were designed.  They also didn't mention that while Finland does well in the not mentioned PISA standardized tests, it does not conduct internal standardized tests like Ontario does with the EQAO's.  The PISA tests are given at random schools. I have seen sample question which require more creativity and critical thinking than do the EQAO's among those taking the tests.

If the Liberals extend the teaching program to two years, this may prevent poorer but highly educated Ontarians from going to university to get a teaching degree.  I have been supply teaching for several years.  I have learned more about teaching through my practical experience than by taking extra courses.  Yes, these courses do help me with my teaching.  However, they improve my ability to teach by a small margin.  My practical experience has made me into a much better teacher.  I have learned how things work or don't work in different classrooms.  An extra year of a teacher education program would have marginally helped me and the students that I teach.

Doubling Teacher Education


Anonymous said...

Do they have a serious, detailed plan with precisely defined benefits, worth the cost? Or is it more of a "hey, we need to do Something to improve education. This is Something, therefore we must do it!" kind of situation.

I mean if they take the extra time to have future teachers focus on practical learning in a specific area, like Special Education, then great! If it's just splitting Child Psychology 110 into Child Psychology 101 and 201 and adding some theoretic filler, then not so great.

Skinny Dipper said...

Thanks for the quick response, Anonymous. Believe me. I am not against an extra year of teacher education. I just think that the benefits to students will be marginal. The costs to both future teachers and the educational system will outweigh the benefits.

Anonymous said...

Arguably "the world's best" education system hires teachers with nothing less than a Masters. Of course, the entire system seems to have a lot more support all round, but the core has to be the teacher.