Aspiring teachers in Ontario will soon face a drastically different landscape than their predecessors.
They will be competing for half the number of spaces in teachers’ college, taking twice as long to earn their degree, and spending double the number of days in classroom placements — all before joining the glut of teachers looking for a job in Ontario.
The changes, spearheaded by the governing Liberals, are meant to curb the oversupply of new instructors — all of whom must have earned a post-secondary degree before applying to teachers' college. According to the Ministry of Education, roughly 9,000 new teachers graduate in Ontario each year, but only about 6,000 teachers are needed.
In January, CBC Doc Zone explored the issue of dwindling job opportunities for increasingly educated graduates. The filmmakers focus on the situation faced by young teachers in Ontario, specifically, at around the 17:40 mark.
In a statement released Wednesday, the ministry billed the change as an update of the system and described the forthcoming two-year degree as an "enhanced program."
"Ontario is modernizing teacher education to help new teachers get jobs and provide students with the best possible education," the ministry stated, adding that the province is working in partnership with the Ontario College of Teachers.
"This will help address an oversupply of graduates, enabling Ontario's qualified teachers to find jobs."
The new, more exclusive program — which will take effect in September 2015 — is expected to:
- Extend learning time from two semesters to four semesters.
- Increase the length of classroom placements from a minimum of 40 days to a minimum of 80 days.
- Instruct new teachers on a wider diversity of student needs, including training regarding mental health and addictions issues.
David Clegg, president of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario in York Region, said the oversupply of teachers is a pressing problem.
"We do have a glut at this point, but it is a cyclical problem. Hopefully the government can project forward and get the right balance in place," he said in a Metro Morning interview with Matt Galloway.
Clegg added that aspiring teachers should have realistic expectations of the job market, and that there's a certain amount of naïveté among those who think they will be the exception and secure the rare job.
"There are an awful lot of young people, well-trained, looking for work in education that have been unsuccessful to this point."
Wynne ups the ante for would-be teachers
The change was set in motion by former premier Dalton McGuinty, who pledged action on the issue as a re-election promise just before the 2011 campaign.
McGuinty committed to extending teachers' college from one year to two years and cutting back on the number of spaces. He also promised there would be no new spaces in teacher education programs.
But his successor Kathleen Wynne is taking it a step further by actually cutting spaces at teachers' college and increasing the minimum time for classroom placements.
The overhaul was welcomed by some young teachers, like Michelle Mesquita-Bissada of the York Region District School Board.
"I definitely agree with the changes," she said. "I think it will help the situation Ontario has been in with the surplus of teachers without jobs."
But some aspiring teachers, like Ryerson graduate Colin McKay, fear that the changes may impede those who want to be educated but not necessarily employed in Ontario.
"We may be producing too many teachers for the domestic market, but a lot of the excess is being exported to the rest of the world," he said, adding that Canadian credentials are prized in other countries.
McKay, who is heading to teach English in Japan this summer, said restricting admissions with the aim of raising quality may only "hurt production, and hurt aspiring teachers."
McKay hopes to enroll at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in the next five years.
"My plan was to avoid the current glut by exporting myself post-grad to high paying international schools in foreign countries — something several of my friends have done quite lucratively."