Opening a door to immigrant teachers

Provincial funding for a new program will help teachers who have been trained outside Canada to receive enhanced support to qualify for licensing in Ontario. That's good news for immigrants, schools and parents.


by Marilyn A. Laframboise

To replace the thousands of teachers who will retire from the system over the next few years will be an ongoing challenge for Ontario's schools as well as for the College, which is responsible for issuing Certificates of Qualification and Registration to new teachers. But boards in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Ottawa will soon have access to an almost-ready resource – internationally trained teachers.

Thanks to a new bridging program approved and funded by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, more internationally trained teachers – many with qualifications in high-need areas –- will be licensed in Ontario over the next 12 to 18 months. The ministry allocated $1.85 million towards the plan in late January.

The Ontario College of Teachers, in partnership with community agencies and the Ontario Teachers Federation (OTF), submitted the proposal to the ministry on behalf of the Teachers' Leadership Council – which includes representatives of the Toronto Training Board, faculties of education, school boards, community agencies and the OTF.

Thousands of highly trained individuals currently living in the province want to make a contribution and have been unable to do so. Various reasons – gaps in academic or professional credentials or a lack of proficiency in English or French, for example, kept more than one thousand out-of-province applicants from receiving Ontario teaching certificates in the last three years.

One major obstacle for prospective teachers has been obtaining official documents from the countries where they were trained. The College has carried out extensive research and actively intervened on behalf of applicants in this regard. The bridging program will reinforce these efforts and provide resources for additional assistance.

The new program will also help reduce the confusion that many immigrants experience when they arrive and don't know who to approach or who can advocate on their behalf.

A web site will provide consistent, accurate and continually updated information to foreign-trained teachers, immigration officers abroad and organizations that advise immigrants.

Consultation centres operated in Toronto by the College and Skills for Change and in the Ottawa area by LASI (Local Agencies Serving Immigrants) World Skills will provide group intake and information sessions, one-on-one consultation, intensive Canadian Language Benchmarks assessment, language upgrading, and Sector-Specific Terminology, Information and Counselling (STIC).

Those who qualify for the STIC component will receive intensive support in self-assessment and portfolio building, language training and job-search strategies.

These potential Ontario teachers will get a fuller understanding of current curriculum and assessment expectations. They will examine interrelationships with students, colleagues and parents and learn how to serve all students, particularly those with special education or English as a second language needs. Those who require language support/training in English or French to meet proficiency standards will get it. There will also be workshop support to prepare them for writing the Ontario Teacher Qualifying Test.

Schools boards in the GTA and Ottawa have promised to add support in the form of week-long guided classroom observation opportunities for 80 participants so they can experience the complexities of Ontario teaching first-hand. As well, the boards have committed to interviewing 80 individuals for supply-teaching positions.

The 18-month pilot program is a significant and historic commitment to education in the province. It upholds Ontario's high standards for teaching, thereby providing peace of mind to students and parents. It brings together the College, Skills for Change, LASI World Skills and the Ontario Teachers' Federation in a concerted effort to facilitate the certification and possible employment of new teachers at a time of teacher shortage.

The program provides resources that will help us clarify for newcomers the complex process of becoming licensed to teach in Ontario. And it's an investment in learning that makes sense – employing people who are already here, who want to work and, with the boost of added assistance, can.

The inclusion of teachers from around the world who meet Ontario's high standards can only do us a world of good.