As we reported in last week’s OCUFA Report, Ontario has announced plans to cut the amount of per-student funding provided to the province’s teacher education programs. This week, OCUFA wrote a letter to Minister Liz Sandals (Education) and Brad Duguid (Training, Colleges, and Universities) expressing our concerns. The full text of the letter follows:
Dear Ministers Duguid and Sandals,
On behalf of the 17,000 faculty and academic librarians that the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) represents, I am writing to express concern about the recent changes to teacher education in Ontario. OCUFA understands that there are currently more students graduating from teaching training programs at Ontario universities than are being employed by Boards of Education in the province. However, the steps taken by the province to reduce the number of students entering and graduating from teaching training programs in Ontario are highly problematic for the continued quality and sustainability of teacher education in the province.
Changes to teacher training programs were made without meaningful consultation with the post-secondary education sector. As the government moves forward with the implementation of these changes, greater care must be taken to engage with the sector.
The expansion of the length of teacher training programs and the reduction in the number of available spaces by 50 per cent is also accompanied by significant cuts to per-student funding for teacher education. Taken together with the overall decline in per-student funding and the reduction to operating grants through so-called “policy levers” introduced in the 2012 Budget, these continued cuts erode the quality of post-secondary education in this province. No matter the length of the program or the number of entrants, if per-student funding for teacher training programs is cut, the quality of teacher education will inevitably suffer.
In addition, if the province wanted to address the “oversupply” of teacher training graduates in Ontario, steps must be taken to address programs offered by institutions not funded by the Ontario government which allow students to complete their practical training in Ontario. Even if the province reduces teacher training spaces at Ontario institutions, students will continue to pursue teacher education out of province and at a significantly higher cost.
Finally, the government’s changes to teacher training echo cuts to medical education programs in the early 1990s, which left Ontario chronically short of qualified family doctors. Governments have a poor record of predicting labour market needs, and changes to teacher education may have significant, and unforeseen, negative effects in the future.
I sincerely hope that the Ministries of Training, Colleges and Universities and of Education will re-think some aspects of their changes, particularly those that reduce the amount of public funding available to our institutions. I also hope that your ministries will commit to strengthening your collaboration and consultation with the higher education sector to ensure future reforms are in the best interests of students of all ages in our province.
Constance Adamson, President, OCUFA