Coalition wants more support for internationally educated teachers to land permanent jobs

The call comes along a newly-released report that highlights a lack of diverse teachers in schools.

New report highlights continued underrepresentation of racialized teachers in schools and lack of data

The new State of Equity in Education report says there remains a lack of racialized teachers in classrooms. (Syda Productions / Shutterstock)

The Newcomer Education Coalition says Manitoba is still in dire need of diverse teachers in schools and one way to bridge that gap is to better support internationally educated teachers. 

On Monday, after releasing the new State of Equity in Education report which highlights a lack of racialized teachers and school trustees, the group is calling on the province and school divisions to address the gap.

"To improve educational outcomes for racialized students, they need to see themselves better reflected in the curriculum and the staff working in all levels of the public school system," said Tom Simms, the report's researcher. 

The report includes eight calls to action, including boosting transparency of equity-based data and reports,  commitments by the province and school boards to equity policies, and collaboration between government, school boards and newcomer agencies, some of which were highlighted in last year's report. 

Students in a grade 4/5 class at R.F. Morrison school in Winnipeg in May 2021 before schools moved to remote learning. The new State of Equity in Education report says 60 per cent of students in WSD identify as racialized or Indigenous, but the number of teachers in those categories aren't representative. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Simms says there needs to be a built hub that supports internationally educated teachers so they can transition to become permanent teachers. 

Around 15 years ago, there was the Academic and Professional Bridging Program launched at the University of Manitoba to help international educated teachers which was very successful, he said. 

The program was suspended in 2011 due to a lack of funding, but NEC would like to see that program relaunched, said Simms. 

There also must be better support for newcomer and racialized substitute and contract teachers to move into permanent positions, he said. 

Lack of data 

Simms says a challenge of conducting the report remains an absence of data. Out of six school divisions surveyed in fall 2021, only one school division — the Winnipeg School Division —  was able to provide the number of racialized and visible minority teachers it has, he said.

Data from that sample shows that 60 per cent of WSD's students are racialized or Indigenous, but 80 per cent of teachers identify outside those categories.

He said school divisions must build a well established data collection system for looking at equity deserving groups, so that initiatives can be built around where people see the gaps. 

The survey also found that out of 54 school trustees in Winnipeg, only three identified as racialized persons — that's six per cent.

Struggles with getting experience

Suni Matthews, a retired school administrator and educator who worked with the Winnipeg School Division for more than 40 years, says many internationally-trained teachers struggle with getting teaching experience with the Canadian curriculum — which was something the bridging program at the University of Manitoba addressed. 

"Now people just have to go through the regular stream, either get into a B.Ed program or, you know, or they, you know, just take it course by course and then work at other jobs," she said. 

Matthews, who also chairs the Equity Matters Coalition and helped form NEC, often mentors newcomer teachers. 

She says another systemic barrier they face is their language differences or so-called "accents" during job interviews, where employers would say their English was hard to understand.

Suni Matthews, chair of Equity Matters and a former educator, administrator and Winnipeg school principal, says internationally-trained teachers struggle to get experience within the Canadian curriculum. (CTV pool)

"I would always say, which accent are we talking about? Because Newfoundlanders have accents. English people have accents. Scottish people have accents. So what is the accent that we're talking about and referring to?"

Matthews says she struggled when she was trying to get certified as a teacher in the 1970s, after moving to Canada from India with two degrees: a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Education. 

She retook classes for a year of school at the University of Manitoba to get certified, but when she graduated, she was not on the same classification as other teachers, she said. 

"I was downgraded to a classification two or three and of course, I was persistent in saying this is not right," she said. "I've been on the dean's list." 

Matthews was told in order to upgrade her classification, she had to finish a masters program at the University of Manitoba, which she couldn't do without providing all the details of courses she took in India. 

It took her two years to get into a pre-masters program and eventually, she made it as a substitute teacher, she said.

"I had an opportunity to kind of go to all the schools and prove myself," said Matthews. 

"But that is not the case for a lot of other internationally trained teachers that come."