UPDATE - UPEI changes bachelor of education program

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UPEI’s interim dean of education, Ron MacDonald, here outside his department’s office, says the school is compressing its education program to meet the demands of Islanders who want to become teachers.

UPEI is making a major change to the way it trains teachers by compressing its bachelor of education program into one year instead of two.

Ron MacDonald, the department’s interim dean, said the change was made to meet the demands of education students who are looking for compressed programs.

“They see those across the (Confederation) bridge,” he said.

Under the current program, students spend two years at UPEI from September to May with about 85 graduates every spring.

The number of graduates every year won’t change, but instead of having a break in the summer the students will attend classes and complete teaching practicums throughout a full calendar year, starting in May 2014.

UPEI will graduate two classes in 2015 because of the transition, but will go back to graduating about 85 students in the next year.

MacDonald said the department’s research found 93 per cent of its graduates within the last three years had either full-time, contract or substitute teaching work.

Competition for education students in the Maritimes is steep with eight universities in the region that offer bachelor of education programs, including two in New Brunswick that have shorter programs.

Every year there are about 300 teachers newly certified in P.E.I., but only about 85 of those come from UPEI’s education program.

Of those UPEI graduates, 15 are part of the school’s French program, which is in high demand in P.E.I.

MacDonald said that means most of them get their degrees elsewhere.

“We want to keep them here,” he said.

While the university wants Island students to stay in P.E.I. for their education training, the new program will have an increased focus on math and science, specifically for elementary school teachers.

To get into the program the students will need more math credits from their undergraduate degree.

Once they are in the program, the students will have to take a math for teachers course and a science, technology, engineering and math course known as STEM will be available.

MacDonald said the science course will set them up to be better math teachers.

“A different kind of a perspective on data and how to work with it,” he said.

Recent results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) testing showed P.E.I.’s 15-year-olds ranked last in the country in math, reading and science.

The work to change the education program started before the PISA results came out, but MacDonald said there has always been a general sense that literacy was very important so there was a focus on it.

“With an enhanced focus on literacy, math and science may have been . . . less of a focus.”

UPEI’s education students are required to complete teaching practicums that place them in classrooms alongside experienced teachers to help them gain experience.

That won’t change under the new program, but the placements will be longer with students spending 20 weeks in schools.

The bachelor of education program also has specializations in international or indigenous education, but with the change there will be an additional specialization in adult education available.

MacDonald said the program’s graduates work in education-related fields and some of them want the bachelor of education skills, but don’t want to teach younger students so there will be options for practicums in places like Holland College.

“That option’s there for them now.”

Some English as an additional language training will also become mandatory under the new program because of the Island’s diverse population, MacDonald said.

“It’s an essential skill for teachers in today’s culture to be able to work with students whose language isn’t English first language.”

With education programs in the region struggling to recruit students, MacDonald said making the change so close to the application period is a risk.

“It’s a risk that our faculty is willing to take,” he said.

rross@theguardian.pe.ca

twitter.com/ryanrross

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Recent comments

  • J
    December 13, 2013 - 11:20

    For those of you who have short memories,the 2yearBed program hasn't been in existence that long. Most other places have a one year program. Perhaps student teachers need more in classroom training, similar to UNB where they have to complete a four month block in a classroom with a co -operating teacher .

  • Half the time
    December 12, 2013 - 18:17

    It takes to acquire a BEd. Does this mean the tuition will be cut in half as well?

  • aformergrad
    December 12, 2013 - 11:50

    So, in May of 2015, there will be 135 more substitute teachers in the province. Well, less the French Immersion graduates who will probably get a job. The door to becoming a permanent teacher here in P.E.I is all but closed. Unless hiring practices change drastically, that's approximately 135 people that should plan are heading off-Island to find a job (not that any other province in hiring either). Notice that the dean wants people to "come home, stay home and do their bachelor of education in P.E.I.". Nothing is mentioned about working home, because it's damn near impossible.

    • Don't Think Twice, it's Alright!
      December 12, 2013 - 15:44

      As a graduate of the UPEI program many, many years ago, also in a time of few opportunities, I had to go to another province to find a teaching job. It was not a problem finding a great job with great working conditions, great people who have remained life long friends, and great memories of wonderful children. And, as time went by, there wasn't a problem finding a job back here either, so I returned home. But, coming back here was a decision I second guess to this day. Had I stayed where I was, I'd be in a much better financial situation, better pension, better benefits, much better pay scale and better opportunities for new working experiences. So, I may not think twice about getting my "piece of paper" here. The UPEI diploma is as good a ticket to ride as most. But teaching there for an entire career? It's a short life and a small world - I'd think more than twice about that decision.

    • Hopeful Teacher
      December 18, 2013 - 19:28

      Most know there are no jobs here and have no problem with it. If you really want to do something you will travel or find a way a way to do it. There are so many opportunities open internationally for Canadian teachers. Many of which future graduates hope to enjoy and experience. All depends how you look at it.

  • Sniff, Sniff . . .
    December 12, 2013 - 09:11

    If the main purpose of public schooling is to keep kids warm, dry and reasonably safe (which is no small task) it really doesn't matter how many years it takes to get through a bachelor of education program. On the other hand, if there's an additional hope of actually teaching and learning something useful - how can compressing a program help? Until that's persuasively explained, this change doesn't pass the sniff test.

  • M Blanchard
    December 12, 2013 - 07:50

    Oh - where do I begin. From two years to one - huge mistake. You are ultimately graduating double the students and sending them into the workforce. Jessica - I don't know about the rest of the country, but here in Ottawa, it's difficult to get on the substitute teaching list, let alone a full time teaching job. I've been teaching full time for 15 years and I just happened to come in at the right time. I've seen many friends who have had teaching contracts for 7 years and are still not full time. They put their heart and soul into the job spending numerous hours performing every extra-curricular activity they can get their hands on. Graduating 85 new teachers every year is not helping the situation in most places!

  • Less is less . . .
    December 11, 2013 - 22:50

    So, is the change being made "to meet the demands of education students" or to meet the needs of the university to generate income? To cast the change as a way to improve student performance is pretty deceptive. For example, will a pass of 50% in the STEM course be sufficient to graduate and then potentially teach math and/or science? If so, how is that setting up our children for success? Nope, this is a short term cash grab that's may contribute to long term failure.

    • Frank
      December 12, 2013 - 13:24

      Actually, the courses are Pass/Fail in the B.Ed. program. Short term cash grab or not, I know many of the B.Ed. students themselves would have preferred a one year program.

  • Compressed Ephemera
    December 11, 2013 - 20:06

    This whole topic is an incredibly serious distraction. Aside from the university's ongoing mission to commodity knowledge, whether a program is compressed or decompressed is moot. A diploma/degree is an undependable proxy indicator of competence. At best, certification can only be used to predict potential short term performance, and even in that there is limited value. In all public spheres, we are waking up to the fact that we need to know not what people were once taught, but rather what they now know. To this end, we need comprehensive and continuous post graduate assessment mechanisms that can identify the degree which knowledge exists and can be put into action - in the here and now. This is especially true for our teachers (and their students) who face challenges unanticipated just ten years ago. Let's face it, unless the university reinvents itself to meet these emerging demands, it's doomed to become as obsolete as Canada Post.

    • Michael
      December 12, 2013 - 08:14

      Something to consider, definitely.

    • Michael
      December 12, 2013 - 08:19

      Feels like going back 100 years: a year of "Teachers' College" or "Normal School" and release them to the system. At least most have degrees in their specialization... though the percentage of teachers who are teaching in their specialization would surprise, I suspect.

  • Jessica
    December 11, 2013 - 15:20

    I'm glad they finally did this. As a graduate of their B. Ed program, I feel this is long overdue. I wish it had been implemented long before I got into the program. I could have been in the workforce a lot sooner. As to Saturated Market's comment - there are positions in Canada, you just have to be willing to leave the Island, which a lot of UPEI grads do. There are many high paying positions in Western/Northern Canada if teachers are willing to make the move.

    • Michael
      December 12, 2013 - 08:13

      Kind of makes the effort to keep people on the Island a moot point, doesn't it? Gives more credence to those who consider it a cash move rather than an educational improvement.

  • Saturated market
    December 11, 2013 - 13:07

    They aren't doing anyone any favours by doubling the number of graduating students... While it may be a definite money-maker for the university, there are no teaching positions on PEI, let alone Canada. Students are graduating with more debt, only to realize that they're unemployable. ...it's tough to repay the debt accumulated obtaining multiple university degrees working in a minimum wage position. Shame on you, UPEI.

  • Sam
    December 11, 2013 - 12:57

    The English degree program at UPEI will be compressed and offered over one year instead of two, the university announced this morning Headline says bachelor of education!