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College success relies on consultation, collaboration

Collaboration from the beginning of any project is key to its ultimate success - and to the College's future work, says the new Registrar.

by Brian McGowan

Your election of a new Council in October heralds another beginning for the College on the eve of its 10th anniversary as the regulatory body for Ontario's teaching profession.

As the College's new Registrar, I welcome the chance to work with the expanded Council - enlarged by the government at the profession's request - and education's stakeholders to fulfill the College's mandate.

The addition of six Council positions for working teachers creates a sense of ownership among teachers for their professional body that coincides with feelings of peace and stability in the sector generally.

Teachers can take pride in belonging to a profession that sets world-class standards for membership and that maintains high ethical and practice standards. They can feel good that self-regulation enables them to determine benchmarks for accrediting pre- and in-service teacher education programs. And they can hold their heads high knowing that self-regulation reinforces expectations for exemplary professional conduct and performance.

For the very same reasons, the public can share that pride in Ontario's teachers.

The Ontario College of Teachers exists to regulate teaching in the public's interest. We are not here to be advocates or cheerleaders for teachers. We are here to help ensure that the teachers hired to work in Ontario's publicly funded schools are qualified and competent. That said, we rely upon collaboration within the sector to be most productive.

"As this issue goes to press Bill 52 is before committee."

Our recent Teachers' Qualifications Review is a good example. The final report and recommended policy directions reflect almost 20 months of listening to and thinking about the commentary, submissions and advice received - from members and education stakeholders from across Ontario - about initial and continuing teacher education.

Consensus says that the initial teacher education program should be longer, that program content needs to expand, and that more time should be made available for practice teaching. The report also recommends changes to additional basic qualifications and additional qualifications that affect principals.

An advisory group of stakeholders, including Ministry of Education and Ontario Teachers' Federation representatives along with principals, supervisory officers and directors of education, provided advice from initial concept through to the final recommendations, which have broad support within the sector. The group continues to advise on how to promote and implement the recommendations.

The College followed a similar consultative structure in working with the Ontario Teachers' Federation and community groups to bring the government-funded Teach in Ontario program to life and offer help to internationally educated teachers hoping to find work in Ontario.

"By speaking in concert with others we can bring about the necessary changes."

As this issue goes to press Bill 52 is before committee. The College has just presented its thoughts about the bill, Learning to Age 18, to the Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly.

We lauded the goals of the proposed legislation - to keep students in school, reduce the dropout rate and explore non-traditional routes to student success. However, the College raised professional concerns about the potential loss of public accountability for learning if the bill is passed as written.

The College's submission on Bill 52 called on the government to make significant amendments to the legislation, particularly to the sections dealing with "equivalent learning." The ambiguous use of terms such as educators and providers requires review.

Ours was not the only voice raised. Other education stakeholders expressed similar concerns before the standing committee.

By speaking in concert with others we can bring about the necessary changes that will benefit the members of the profession and the public.