Teacher college applications down nearly 20%

Lowest total since 2002


Teachers’ colleges in Ontario attracted the fewest applicants since 2002, according to statistics available at the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC).

Hopeful students had submitted 46,190 applications to teacher-education programs at Ontario universities by July 9. That represents a nearly 20-per-cent drop over last year’s total of 58,219 and the lowest total since 41,812 applications were filed in 2002.

The number of applicants is also down at about the same rate. (Each applicant may submit more than one application). The total of 13,338 applicants is the lowest since 2001’s total of 11,769. According to a story that appeared in the Toronto Star, there are about 7,500 spaces in Ontario’s teachers colleges.

By July, the University of Ottawa had received the most applications (6,202), followed by the University of Toronto (5,627) and York University (4,837).

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Teacher college applications down nearly 20%

  1. This would be a good year for the magazine to conduct an original examination of the university business in Canada, especially as to its impacts on students. An aspect of university education that might seem impossible to justify is the B.Ed. Since, increasingly, the spirit of high school is being perpetuated into first year university, and even apparently on into law school in some cases, the fundamentals as taught in faculties of education are becoming more important.

    The first question I have is why we have failed to open up the B.Ed. to competition. For example, the teaching of English is very weak in Canadian high schools, polluting first year college and university English in that so much of the work has to be tacitly remedial.

    In British Columbia, rejects from other subject areas may end up in one of the favorite dumping grounds, teaching the high school English courses, where they have the students watch films or draw so as to pass the time. Most of the other high school English teachers have their mechanistic little routines that they repeat year after year. According to an associate of one faculty of education in Vancouver, these teachers resist upgrading of skills because it would disrupt their clerical mindset.

    If students in Philosophy, Linguistics, and English who knew their material and could communicate could automatically get a B.Ed. when they graduated, with no input or interference from a faculty of education, we could begin to solve the intractability of low-grade high school English.

    Degraded English is contaminating subjects such as law, where students have little sensitivity to language and handle linguistic evidence poorly. When we see the collapse of the Air-India prosecution in a welter of errors in the collection and presentation of evidence, we are noting a symptom of the general collapse in teaching English intelligently.

    The faculties of education at SFU and UBC should be merged and reduced dramatically in size. We still have no acceptable response from UBC to the accurate letter in The Ubyssey on the lack of standards in the practices at the Faculty of Education there.

    If we can’t solve the B.Ed. problem, we may as well give up on education, not only in the schools, but also in universities, because the tacit methods and standards are now those of the education faculties, where there may as well be no standards at all.

    Inertia is a powerful force. It is so economically destructive that 60 per cent of the money invested in university education in Canada is automatically wasted. The opportunity costs are even more severe.

  2. Nick might find it productive to ask some serious questions in Ottawa about this letter in The Ubyssey Online: “Faculty of Education in deplorable state.” Does SSHRC pay any attention to reality? Nick might also ask the dean of the faculty and the president at UBC what exactly has been done in relation to this forceful and accurate letter.

    Another compelling letter is the one that appeared in the National Post March 29th of this year from Dr. Marcel Dvorak of UBC about misdiagnoses he had seen over just a few weeks.

    Funny how such information at UBC just gets dropped into a black hole. I guess there is only so much energy that can be poured into extravagant salaries. Then you get too tired to worry about inconvenient letters.

    When you are visiting Vancouver and doing the work of the local media, Nick (there is no higher education reporter in BC), you might ask about the LPI as well. What is this thing? Why are so many students so angry about it?

    As for the textbook and other scams at the main UBC bookstore, the AMS might get onto that case this fall. There is much to be unearthed.

  3. Clayton, I don’t agree with the idea that a degree in Philosophy, Linguistics, or English should automatically entitle someone to a degree in education. Having knowledge of the subject area is necessary but not sufficient to be able to teach it. I have had professors with Ph.Ds in my university to career that couldn’t teach to save their lives.

    Realistically, your solution couldn’t happen anyway, because teacher certification is ultimately driven by, in your case, the BC College of Teachers, not the university itself. If the university is handing out degrees the manner you suggest, then all it will mean is that none of those teachers will be certified to teach because they lack the appropriate qualifications–simply having a B.Ed alone is not sufficient if that degree does not meet the level of rigor that the BCCT requires.

    A more palatable solution is to make the B.Ed (or equivalent) a professional degree–ie. entry into the B.Ed program is contingent on having already received a degree. I am not familiar with the specific programs, but I know UVic offers this type of program: a student can complete a B.Ed in two years or get a teaching certificate in 10 months if they already hold a degree (UVic also offers a 5 year B.Ed program, which I feel should be eliminated in favour of the professional degree).

  4. Oops… last paragraph above should read “I am not familiar with the specific programs at UBC…”

  5. ABarlow, Thanks for your thoughtful response to my posts. The issue that has to be focused is the way that high school thinking influences students so that their adaptation to university is far too slow. In the UK, the writing at the advanced pre-university level is not that much more original than what we sometimes see in Canada, but the handling of evidence is far better.

    In BC, English teachers often encourage students to alter the quote with square brackets so as to make it fit their own text grammatically. This practice is barbaric. Choosing good quotes is an art form. Practising wrapping text around them to introduce and comment on them is valuable.

    Universities in Toronto this fall should produce a fifty poem Internet database with audio and video so that language and literacy programs in Education, and the programs in Linguistics and English departments, could begin to integrate their work. The most practical courses in Linguistics tend to be in phonetics and phonology, but many of the professors do not grasp the value of poetry in teaching the sound system(s) of English. Sound symbolism, for example, is an important subject in Linguistics that should be taught systematically in phonetics and phonology, through poetry. Sound pattern recognition is best taught through poetry.

    If I were to pick one example of literature to teach sound, vocabulary, grammar, and reasoning, including the use of evidence through advanced quoting techniques, it would be “Macbeth.” However, I would not teach Shakespeare in the standard assembly-line way. We should teach “Macbeth” in cycles, starting with intensive work on the Oxford student’s text in grades 8-10, and then work into the Arden, Oxford, and Cambridge texts in grades 11 and 12. Besides this long cycle, we should weave in 30 of Shakespeare’s sonnets and at least seven other of his major plays. The idea would be to have students develop deep and consolidated memories of Shakespeare’s writing so that we would be able to get rid of some introductory courses in university and focus on real production and interpretation.

    The system is now at least five years anachronistic, so obsolete that even professors leave it just at the edge of consciousness that literature, citation of evidence, and practical linguistics are sadly out of focus. ABarlow notes that there are systems in place, but these systems are merely conventional. All of the systems could be changed so that a B.Ed. would mean professional competence.

    So in BC where is the great high school Philosophy course? Are we going to put up forever with IB TOK, Theory of Knowledge? It is often one of the weakest approaches to Philosophy I have ever seen. The entries in “The Oxford Companion to Philosophy,” edited by Ted Honderich, are good and clear, and some of the sections in “Minima Moralia,” by Adorno, are provocative. It would be possible to create a powerful Canadian high school Philosophy program, but with nothing to do with IB or AP-style materials. The question is why it has not been done yet. Philosophy has tremendous potential for teaching management of evidence and a contemplative attitude to perception and interpretation, but that potential for high school is being wasted.

    I have spoken with the BC College of Teachers, but unfortunately their work is too generic to assist B.Ed. programs in the development of the exceptional teaching skills I want. The College just does “not get down to that level” with the deans.

  6. Clayton,
    I agree with you about the state of English education in our high schools (it is still too fresh in my mind) but you are wrong to say that rejects from other subject areas are ending up as English teachers. The BEd progarms at UBC and UVic have very stringent requirements that anyone who did not major in English would not meet.

    Furthermore, I would not give any weight to anything that appears in the Ubyssey. The paper is an embarrassment to our university and is edited by morons who are too fond of calling faculty and other students “douchebags.”

    Personally, I feel that the goals you set for English education in our high schools are misguided. Our goals should be to teach our students reading, writing, research and analytical skills and we should use materials that will engage the students and will be relevant to the them (ie not Shakespeare) to accomplish that goal. It is your antiquated idea of English education that is holding us back. Why force teachers to teach Shakespeare when it will turn off 100% of the students? We should equip our students to deal with the English of today and tomorrow not of the 16C.

    I find your idea that altering quotes is somehow “barbaric” laughable. I bet you also believe that infinitives should not be split.

    And what is the scam at the bookstore? You feel their prices are high? Plan ahead and buy your books on Amazon.ca like most of us do anyway.

  7. Ken, It would be useful if you explained the background that caused you to say that “I agree with you about the state of English education in our high schools…”. It is a “state” that is also typical in first-year English at UBC, Langara, and SFU.

    The English teaching “method” in these cases is often debased American school rhetoric, an artificial and absurd version of the method that never was. That is, no serious writer would ever pay any attention to American school rhetoric, the thesis statement, the pathos, and all the rest of it.

    The “method” is “jam-the-towel-into-the-Coke bottle”: try spending all day stuffing a hotel towel into such a narrow opening. The more you struggle, the less sense it makes, but English teachers have to have something to say, right? The transition. The thesis. The topic. As if they had any idea. Some university instructors are so confused that they tell students to write in present tenses about literature. As if they had never heard about the wealth of forms in the past. Highlighted in American prose style.

    If students were to assimilate American prose style, starting with “The Scarlet Letter,” in grades 7 and 8, and ending with “No Country For Old Men” in grade 12, they would at least be able to learn about subordination, how manner, result, absolute, and counterfactual clauses cluster in Hawthorne, Melville, James, Faulkner, and McCarthy. If the schools had official dictionaries–Merriam-Webster’s Advanced Learner’s, along with COBUILD Advanced Learner’s, and Longman Advanced American–all great ones–as supplemented by Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate, http://www.m-w.com, and http://www.oed.com–and along with Longman Language Activator, an exceptional synonym book–the painfully awkward ignorance of vocabulary in BC schools could be reversed.

    That instead of the only powerful teaching grammars of the language, the COBUILD Intermediate and English Grammar, we rely on a jumble of manuals–the LPI’s being the worst–is a disgrace. The system is in such a shambles that it seems as if BC education faculties have set out to bring about the ruin of the students. If I had not realized that truth shortly after I started working on English with Hong Kong students, I might have been muttering over TOEFL manuals to this day. My previous two sentences exhibit the most interesting periodic subordinate clause cluster in “The Scarlet Letter”: result, manner, and counterfactual (conditional). If you do not understand the cluster, Ken, please e-mail me at claytonburns@gmail.com and I will explain it to you.

    The matter of teachers not qualified to teach English ending up doing so is something that a good number of Vancouver and Richmond students have mentioned over the years. Since students at UBC’s faculty of education are often not being marked on their grammar on the basis that they “should have learned it” in high school, there is clearly a lot of confusion in the system. They could not have learned grammar in BC high schools because the teachers have no idea of how to integrate texts, dictionary, and grammar.

    The Ubyssey is one of the best student papers in Canada. It posts reader comment that would be ignored by some mainstream media. It covers many stories that the UBC administration would like to bury. It is thus doing the work of journalism up to a far higher standard than the exceptionally weak website acssociated with the UBC school of journalism.

    Shakespeare is important, but taught by a different method. Students should work over “Macbeth” and 15 of the sonnets as their long cycle project so that they could pass oral and written tests in grade 12. This would be a good way to learn deep reading. Reviewing “Macbeth” every year, and then adding on one play each year.

    Slapdash quoting leads to disrespect for evidence. The best idea is to choose your quotes, put them down on the page with plenty of white space around them, practise introducing them and commenting on them, and then establish sequences of telling quotes and your own commentary. Without any [ ].

    You will find my latest comments on the main UBC bookstore at the end of the recent Ubyssey editorial on professor Michael Byers.

    Thanks for your comment. Clayton.

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