Monday, September 5, 2011

The Ontario Liberal Government's Proposal To Extend Teacher Training

Recently, the McGuinty-led Liberal government of Ontario has proposed extending to two years from one the training of new teachers. The logic seems to be that the additional training will make for better teachers AND reduce the number of unemployed new graduates.

While I can't really address the efficacy of such a proposal in turning out better-qualified teachers, my own memory of teacher training being that it was only during the practicum that I learned anything useful, I can address its second purpose with considerable confidence.

As a retired teacher who has long opposed teachers doing supply and contract work post-retirement, one part of the solution to unemployment amongst new graduates is to ban this practice, something neither the teacher federations nor the government have shown any appetite for. It has always seemed manifestly unjust and selfish to me for retired colleagues to be denying new grads the opportunity to gain some experience and make some contacts within the crucible of supply and contract work.

However, the proposed lengthening of teacher training to two years from one as a solution to teacher unemployment is only a way of avoiding political risks. Several years ago, in anticipation of a teacher shortage that never materialized, the Ontario government significantly increased the number of university spots to train teachers. Rather than now reducing that number to realistic levels, (which would also reduce education faculties' revenues,) the McGuinty government has once more opted to play politics instead of showing real leadership.

And speaking of politics, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, of which I am a former member, by immediately and reflexively supporting this two-year initiative, has demonstrated that it is more interested in supporting the objectives of the Liberal government than it is in representing the interests of its members.

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