Via La Presse
During a press conference in January 2023, Quebec's Minister of Education, Bernard Drainville, made a resolute declaration regarding the shortage of teachers in the province. He emphasized that approximately 4,000 educators were presently employed without the required legal certification. To tackle this challenge, Drainville suggested implementing a fast-tracked teacher training program, asserting that it would not compromise the quality of education. When it was announced that 8,000 teaching positions were not fulfilled in August 2023, the minister started contemplating shortening the education degree to three years. This raises the pivotal question: Will this proposition elevate Quebec's education system to a state of glory, or will it have a detrimental impact on it?
Since 1994, anyone interested in becoming a teacher in the province of Quebec has had to possess a bachelor’s degree in teaching. In other words, the Ministry of Education regulates that candidates are required to complete a four-year degree program consisting of 60 university-level credits (four years in university) in teaching for preschool, elementary school, high school, or for vocational training.
However, the standard path to becoming a teacher is strewn with obstacles that inhibit candidates from being granted the privilege to teach. Many of them abandon their pursuit midway due to the program's extended duration and its ironic tendency to deter students from engaging in mandatory internships. It is worth noting that public school assignment rules often prioritize older, more experienced candidates over interns, placing interns in demanding schools that might be considerably far from their residences. Institutions are expected to show care for their new recruits as they represent the future of education, but this practice is not always met.
Under this proposed plan, Drainville wishes to fix students’ inclination to abandon their studies in education. To address both the issue of unqualified teachers and the shortage of educators, he initially proposes an initiative which states that candidates with a bachelor's degree in French, mathematics, English, history, or science would now only need to complete one additional year of studies (equivalent to 30 university-level credits) to qualify for teaching roles. He emphasizes that this streamlined pathway would quicken the process of legitimizing unqualified teachers and may also attract graduates who were not previously considering a career in education. It eliminates the need for the tedious required four-year education program, which had been one of the numerous obstacles in the traditional route to becoming a teacher.
Many voiced their concerns on the quality of the education delivered by these “one-year-trained” educators. Drainville responded saying that the many education specialists who were consulted on the topic claim that the fast-tracking of the education degree is possible and would have no impact on the future quality of teaching in schooling institutions.
The argument here is that, by making the process more efficient and appealing to students who have already specialized in certain subjects, it can be contended that he is not compromising the quality of education that stems from this training. After all, candidates holding a bachelor's degree in French are already specialists in the French language; all they lack is the pedagogical tools to effectively teach it.
But it can still be argued that it will compromise the quality of education within our schools. Even with four years of training, novice educators often struggle with classroom management – a skill that typically requires years to master. Frequently, these educators find themselves disillusioned by a system that upholds outdated, rigid teaching methods, which are ill-suited to the evolving needs of newer generations of students. If the teacher training program were to be significantly shorter, it is reasonable to assume that the quality of instruction could suffer. How can a student acquire the necessary pedagogical skills in just one year when even four years can leave them inadequately prepared for the diverse array of classrooms they'll encounter? Are we really willing to take that risk?
A good part of the solution to the shortage of teachers in Quebec, and for many other jobs, is extremely clear: immigration. However, upon their arrival here, immigrants sadly have to face the harsh difficulty of getting their foreign degrees recognized. Those who are eager and determined to continue teaching in Quebec are frequently met with the disheartening news that they must essentially start their educational studies anew to qualify as teachers, even if they held well-established positions as professors in their home countries. Not only so, even if the ministry grants them the license to be a teacher, many schools toss them out simply due to biased concerns regarding the legitimacy of their degree. After all, how can a school in Quebec make sure they do possess the skills required to deliver the adequate curriculum?
While Drainville's plan does tackle the shortage of certified teachers in Quebec, it primarily aims to increase the appeal of education careers by reducing its duration (though, with the specialized studies completed prior, it still amounts to a four-year program). This approach represents a substantial gamble. Perhaps a wiser approach would be to invest in improved recognition of foreign qualifications and fostering, rather than dissuading, students with an interest in pursuing a career in education.