March 1998

Pre-Service Education Around the World
Pre-Service Education Around the World

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Worldwide Trends Show Other Countries Pushing Ahead in Pre-Service Education

The Ontario College of Teachers has been collecting information from around the world as it prepares to accredit pre-service teacher education programs.

By Janice Thomson

Admission and training expectations for pre-service teachers vary widely around the world, and Ontario’s initial teacher certification requirements lie just about in the middle of the range. That’s what the College discovered during its recent collection of data on how teachers from around the world prepare for their classroom careers.

The requirements to enter a teacher education program and the program outline are both ruled by Ontario government regulation. These have not been changed since 1985. Reviewing this regulation in light of worldwide trends is part of the work of the College of Teachers Accreditation Committee.

The College sent questionnaires to organizations, institutions and government departments in 125 jurisdictions in English and 75 in French. The results were collated, organized and circulated back to all those who replied. They are also available to College members through the library collection.

This collection is probably the most complete data base in the world on teacher pre-service education activity.

Requiring Degrees

In some jurisdictions a degree is still not mandatory for teaching in elementary schools, especially at the primary level. However, in most of those places efforts are being made to require undergraduate degrees and to encourage practising teachers who have no degree to upgrade their qualifications.

As well as requiring an undergraduate degree, many jurisdictions are being more specific about the content of the degree and even of secondary school courses. Elementary teachers who will teach the core curriculum must have at least secondary school graduation-level courses in language, science, math and social studies.

The trend is to review the pre-service program content in the elementary core subjects to make sure the teachers are ready to teach all core areas, not just those reflected in their undergraduate degrees.

Another emerging trend appears to be longer pre-service course times. Although some jurisdictions are moving to a two-year program based on a university academic year, others are creating a one-year program that matches the school year.

This allows more time for both practical classroom experience and on-campus class time. It also allows for extra time at the beginning and end of school years in the schools, either observing or working with an associate teacher as a contributing member of the staff.

Identifying, selecting, training and working with associate schools and teachers is an area in which many jurisdictions say they need improvement.

Professional Development Model

Some jurisdictions have begun working with schools in a professional development model, in which the university and the professional development school work closely together to provide practicum experiences for a large number of pre-service teacher candidates.

The university virtually opens a branch office in the school and provides staff, money and equipment to support the teacher-candidate experience. Much is written about this practice, but the cost puts it beyond most teacher training institutions unless they can get specific funding through a government program.

More common is a recognition that teacher candidates should have the opportunity to become part of a school community, rather than spending a short four weeks in a classroom with one teacher.

The trend is to an extended practicum of eight or 10 weeks in one school, working with several associate teachers and getting involved in extra-curricular activities, staff meetings and other events in the life of a school community.

Many faculties of education are moving toward placing a number of teacher candidates in the same school at the same time and building a team of associate teachers to work with them. This broadens the experience for the teacher candidate and provides exposure to a variety of instructional and classroom management styles.

Piloting the Accreditation Process

In Ontario, each faculty of education is responsible for designing a pre-service program in line with the requirements outlined in the regulation. As there has been no external review of these programs since 1985 – the last year the Ministry of Education and Training did program reviews – there are great differences among them.

Over time, each has modified its programs to meet the needs of its teacher candidates and address changes in education. The activities at each faculty are known within the faculty itself, but are not well-known beyond the university. Part of the job of the College Accreditation Committee is to determine ways to review pre-service programs against criteria that reflect the developing standards of practice and needs of the profession.

The accreditation process, which begins this year, involves the review of information provided by the faculty and a follow-up on-campus visit by an accreditation panel. This is a new procedure for undergraduate teacher education programs in Ontario, but is common at the graduate level, where reviews of programs occur every seven years.

As the College moves into the accreditation of pre-service teacher education programs, panel members will have a chance to explore the variety being offered by each faculty, including programs provided in off-campus locations or in partnership with other universities and colleges.

The information the panel collects will expand the data base and improve understanding of the nature and variety of the programs being offered across the province.

Over the next three years, accreditation panels will visit each faculty of education in Ontario and provide a report to the university and to the public on the accredited status of the programs of teacher pre-service education. The process is being piloted this year at three faculties – Queen’s, Laurentian’s French-language program and Nipissing. Next year, three other faculties will enter the cycle, with the final four being reviewed in 2000.

Based on this experience, the Accreditation Committee will develop recommendations for amending the regulation and establishing pre-service teacher education program requirements that support the standards of practice for the teaching profession. This review will provide some degree of consistency for teacher candidates and also allow faculties to maintain their unique programs.

Janice Thomson manages the Accreditation Unit of the College’s Professional Affairs Department. To learn more about the Accreditation and Standards of Practice and Education committees and contribute to their work, visit the department's home page.