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by Leata Lekushoff
Benefits and challenges in current approaches to evaluation
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Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Mary Anne Chambers in conversation with Brian Jamieson
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by Gabrielle Barkany
Professionally Speaking Minister Chambers, your government is trying to open doors for internationally educated teachers by funding an 18-month bridging project. The Ontario College of Teachers is one of four partners overseeing the project. What are you hoping the project will achieve and do you see the possibility of this as an ongoing government-funded service to new Ontario residents?
Minister Chambers We are pleased to invest in the Teach in Ontario project to help speed the entry of internationally trained teachers into Ontario's publicly funded schools. This project will provide support for 2,200 internationally trained teachers in the Toronto and Ottawa regions and offer more intensive support for 530 participants. Our goal is to have a minimum of 288 internationally trained teachers licensed over the 18 months of the project.
The project will improve access to information and counselling on the licensing process, orient internationally trained teachers to the Ontario education system and provide occupational language training. In addition, it will target subjects of high demand such as French, chemistry, physics, computer sciences, mathematics and technology studies. We regularly review the bridge training programs we have available and we will ensure that there are programs available for internationally trained teachers on an ongoing basis.
PS What strategies do you think the College could institute to enhance services to internationally educated teachers during the certification process or following certification?
Minister Chambers I believe the Teach in Ontario project will help the College immensely in addressing the certification needs of internationally trained teachers in Ontario. In addition, the College and its partners could adopt a range of strategies to enhance services to internationally trained teachers, including mentoring opportunities and volunteer placements with experienced teachers.
PS Could you elaborate a little on the idea of mentoring or volunteer placements?
Minister Chambers Even after licensing, some internationally trained teachers remain on a school supply list but do not get called, or do not obtain a permanent position in our school system. These teachers may benefit from support or mentoring to better understand the Ontario teaching profession and the working environment. We believe that partnerships among employers, principal associations, federations and the Ontario College of Teachers could address the challenges of internationally trained teachers and provide the support they require.
PS Language proficiency in English or French is a requirement to teach in Ontario schools. Many of the internationally educated teachers experience difficulty in providing evidence of their proficiency in English or French. What kind of support does your government foresee providing for language-proficiency training?
Minister Chambers We recognize the importance of language proficiency in the teaching profession. Our current bridging projects include high-level language training that is specific to each occupation.
PS What additional support do you think there should be for newly certified internationally trained teachers during their first year in Ontario schools?
Minister Chambers I support the decision of my colleague, Minister of Education Gerard Kennedy, to explore an induction program, which could include mentoring and professional development opportunities to newly licensed teachers, including the internationally trained. The Ministry of Education will conduct further consultations with the education sector and will keep stakeholders informed of the process.
PS If you could change any criteria to evaluate the credentials and experiences of internationally educated teachers, what would you like to see?
Minister Chambers We continue to work in partnership with the Ontario College of Teachers, as we do with all our major regulatory bodies, to protect the interest of students while ensuring that no unnecessary barriers exist for internationally educated teachers who are seeking a licence in Ontario.
PS Qualifying for a licence to teach in Ontario is the first step. Beyond that, teachers have to find jobs with Ontario's school boards. What is the government doing to encourage boards to hire people whose first language is not English or French and who may have difficulty communicating with Ontario students?
Minister Chambers My ministry is supporting two bridging initiatives for internationally trained teachers. School boards are partners in these projects and will participate directly in components of the bridging projects. This involvement includes
We also want to ensure that principals become more aware of the benefits of hiring internationally trained teachers. My ministry will discuss with the Ministry of Education and the College ways we can best proceed with this.
Also, as part of negotiating an immigration agreement with her federal counterpart, one of the objectives my colleague Dr. Marie Bountrogianni, the Minister of Children and Youth Services, has for the agreement is the need for advanced-level language training.
PS Does the government have other resources available to the College, or to internationally educated teachers as individuals, that will enhance services in this area?
Minister Chambers As a government, we have invested substantially in a variety of projects aimed at helping qualified immigrants to move quickly into the labour market without duplicating the skills they have already acquired. There are presently two projects addressing the specific needs of internationally trained teachers.
Our Job Connect agencies are an alternative source of support. These agencies provide valuable information, career counselling and job placement services.
PS Some teacher certification bodies in other jurisdictions have implemented a system of competency-based assessments to determine whether applicants may be licensed. How would you feel about Ontario moving in this direction?
Minister Chambers We support the idea of exploring the use of competency-based tools. Manitoba has developed a portfolio process for measuring the participant's language competencies, which could be applied to language requirements needed by the teaching profession. This system may be worth exploring when considering revisions to the language requirements for licensing in Ontario.
PS The Ontario government currently supports career-bridge internship programs in other professions that provide actual financial incentives to hire internationally trained professionals. Would you consider doing the same for teachers who are internationally trained?
Minister Chambers Our government would be pleased to consider any new initiative that supports our efforts to eliminate major regulatory barriers for internationally trained individuals. I would work with Minister Kennedy and the College in considering any new initiative for internationally trained teachers.
PS What else is your ministry doing that might support the College's service to internationally educated teachers?
Minister Chambers Our government invested $9.5 million in new money last year to help internationally trained individuals. That will grow to $12.5 million this year. We want to develop new, multi-faceted programs that reduce barriers to labour-market entry and measurably help internationally trained individuals become certified and gain licences to work in their chosen professions, trades and other skilled occupations in Ontario.
PS What is your ministry doing to respond to College requests for changes in legislation that address the additional qualifications teachers need in today's classrooms?
Minister Chambers The Ministry of Education is working with the College to update the College's regulation  addressing additional qualifications for teachers.
Staff from my ministry are participating on the External Advisory Committee for the Teachers Qualification Review, led by the Ontario College of Teachers. Advice from that review will be forwarded to Minister Kennedy, and I look forward to working with him to ensure that my ministry provides the support required for teacher education.
In 2004 the Ontario government commissioned former premier Bob Rae to undertake a review of the postsecondary system in the province. As part of this review, a discussion paper on postsecondary education is available online, as are all submissions made to the web site www.raereview.on.ca.
Rae hosted a series of consultation events - 16 town hall meetings - across the province from October through December. The town hall meetings were advertised in local media and open to the public.