Saskatchewan

Student teachers at U of S call for paid practicums

Some students at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Education are calling on the university and the government to start paying them for the work placements that are required as part of the program.

Unpaid 4-month work placement a financial barrier, says students

University of Saskatchewan students Athanasia Perdikaris and Nathaniel Teed say students at the College of Education should be compensated in some way for their practicums. (Rosalie Woloski/CBC)

Some students at the University of Saskatchewan's College of Education are calling on the university and the government to start paying them for the work placements that are required as part of the program.

The teacher candidates are required to do an unpaid four-month practicum, working at a school under the supervision of a teacher, to complete their degree. They say most professional fields pay their interns and not paying them is a financial barrier to students.

Athanasia Perdikaris, an education student at U of S, told CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning that students face a challenge to support themselves during the practicum (when they're working full-time for free) and are also paying tuition.

She was posted to a school 200 kilometres outside Saskatoon for her practicum.

It puts forward a barrier for a lot of other people who may not be able to afford the varying costs that this internship will present.- Nathaniel Teed, U of S student

"It's very hard to be able to concentrate and be creative and innovative with what you want to do in terms of your internship, but then also worry about how you're going to make the month's rent and keep everything together," she said.

She thinks students should at least be paid minimum wage or get a reduction on tuition costs for their work at the schools.

Nathaniel Teed, another student, said he was posted to a school about a 30-minute drive outside of Saskatoon. His family had to get a second vehicle so he could commute to his practicum.

'We are privileged'

Though he and most of his fellow students are finding ways to get by, he said an unpaid practicum throws another obstacle in the way of candidates from lower-income households.

"We are privileged enough to be able to stress about this situation but [still] do it," he said.

"But it puts forward a barrier for a lot of other people who may not be able to afford the varying costs that this internship will present."

The provincial government issued a statement to CBC, saying "under the Saskatchewan Employment Act, education students who are doing their classroom practicums are defined as student learners."

"They are receiving skills training … gaining practical experience while being assessed, monitored and supervised as a part of their educational program. They are not defined as employees or interns, and as such, would not earn wages."

The dean of education at the U of S issued a similar statement, saying the practicum is consistent with ones at other colleges at the U of S and across Canada, and that students are not paid as they are learners.

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning

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