Advocating for new members

Changes to the Ontario Teacher Qualifying Test could create new challenges for new teachers from outside Canada. Policy changes must be sensitive to the troubling information about employment challenges for these College members.

by Marilyn A. Laframboise

The Transition to Teaching report in this issue reminds every teacher of the stress - many would say terror - of our first years of teaching.

However, it is the difficulty that internationally trained teachers (ITTs) face in finding even occasional work in classrooms that is particularly troubling.

Many of these College members, who have met the requirements for certification, are still unable to crack Ontario's job market.

The College and our partners in Teach in Ontario, the bridging program for internationally trained teachers, are working to help ITTs to both meet the requirements for certification and find jobs in Ontario's education system.

The College has also been working away at simplifying the application process for all new teachers, reducing document requirements wherever possible.

For new graduates of Ontario education faculties, we recently introduced a simplified online application. Within a couple of years, we hope to extend this to all applicants.

But before that happens, there are other challenges to overcome for ITTs. The Minister of Education has quietly set in motion a plan to scrap Ontario's entry-to-practice test and replace it with another assessment mechanism.

In early October, the Ministry of Education sent a letter to Interim Certificate of Qualification (ICQ) holders (teachers trained outside Ontario) advising them of its plans. In the same letter the ministry encouraged ICQ holders to sit the November writing of the current Ontario Teacher Qualifying Test (OTQT) and retake it again this coming March if they haven't passed. Writing the test, after all, is a requirement for certification according to provincial law.

But for now, for all practical purposes, no test is available.

Internationally trained teachers currently working under interim certificates have a year in which to write and pass the OTQT. If they don't meet this requirement, the College is required to cancel their teaching certificates. And without a certificate, they can't teach legally in Ontario's publicly funded schools.

In addition, teachers whose certificates have already been cancelled under this regulation will not be able to reinstate their license to teach. In the absence of a test and with no alternate assessment mechanism in place - possibly for months to come - there may be no way for these individuals to regain College membership.

The additional stress caused by the uncertainty faced by these teachers must be severe.

Under the current circumstances, the College cannot equitably enforce the regulations. But we can and are doing what we can to support our new members and applicants through this transition.

We will work with the Ministry of Education and our other partners in education as the ministry develops its new assessment scheme. We will advocate for our members and remind all concerned of the significant barriers some members already face.

I understand that the new assessment may be tied to an induction program to be delivered by district school boards. We will need to be very aware of the particular challenges for those internationally trained teachers who may only work two or three days a month.

The College welcomes proposals for improvement to the certification and induction of teachers into our profession. That's why College Council was so pleased last year to send Education Minister Gerard Kennedy our proposal for a two-year induction program, New Teacher Induction: Growing into the Profession.

But it is vital that everyone involved recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to ensure that 10,000 new teachers a year are ready to teach in Ontario.

"The difficulty in finding even occasional work is particularly troubling."

Our research shows very clearly that for the majority of newly certified teachers, the transition to full-time teaching employment is far from smooth.

But for the 30 per cent who come from around the world - teachers from 100 different countries have applied to the College over the last seven years - the road to the classroom can be very rocky indeed.

The College will continue to be a strong advocate for Ontario's new teachers - all of them.