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Extending a welcoming hand

Like other regulatory bodies, the College has made many changes to ease the certification process for international applicants. The difference is numbers. Last year we evaluated the credentials of almost 4,000 out-of-province, out-of-country applicants.

by Doug Wilson

Certain subject areas notwithstanding, the need for qualified teachers has levelled out. Happily, interest in teaching as a career in Ontario has not.

The interest among out-of-province and out-of-country applicants, for example, has grown steadily over the past five years.

In 2000 the College evaluated the credentials of 2,690 internationally educated teacher applicants. In 2005 we assessed the qualifications of 3,984.

And there's no indication that interest in becoming a teacher in Ontario will subside any time soon. That's why we have worked hard to provide better information faster to people who received their professional education outside Ontario but wish to teach here.

I'm proud to say that in the last couple of years we have increased our partnerships, changed administrative practices, enhanced staff orientation on issues regarding internationally educated teachers and revised our web site substantially to improve our service to Ontario graduates and to prospective members from other provinces and countries.

"We have worked hard to provide better information faster."

Where possible we want to refine our procedures to make certification less onerous, friendlier, more inviting.

For example, we hold three different information sessions monthly to help internationally educated applicants understand how to apply to become a teacher, how to obtain necessary documents and what we look for in evaluating their credentials. Since these sessions began over a year ago, we've had 50 attendees on average and as many as 100 at a single session. Sessions are promoted online and via regular correspondence.

Along with our Teach in Ontario partners, we're going into community agencies to meet with prospective teachers to provide information, answer individual questions and to certify true copies of one-time-only issued documents that applicants may be reluctant to submit through the mail as part of their application. People appreciate the chance to discuss country-specific issues face to face.

In efforts to customize our service for internationally trained applicants, we've significantly improved our web site.

Applicants can now access data on 81 countries, scanning a continually updated list to find what we know about how certain countries handle the transfer of documents such as the transcripts of higher education graduates. This advance research tool reduces the risk of sending information to the wrong place, eliminates frustrations and expedites application.

We also invest in our staff. We have 60 Membership Services staff who speak or understand English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Cantonese, Hindi, Latvian, Romanian, Marathi, Hebrew and Tagalog. Through annual workshops and individual professional development plans, they continually increase their understanding and intercultural competence. International applicants answered a survey last fall for our Client Services unit. Eighty per cent thought our communication was effective.

When applicants fail to become members, we take pains to explain the requirements that have not been met and to provide a detailed credential assessment report. We've developed a process and a form to facilitate requests from members and applicants for copies of documents from their files as part of our new privacy policy. We've translated letters into Albanian, Arabic, Farsi-Persian, Hebrew, Hindi, Polish, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian and Spanish to send to foreign institutions to verify document authenticity.

We are consistently expanding information on our web site regarding teaching certification in jurisdictions around the world - updating existing information and adding new countries on a regular basis as we complete new research.

As evidence of the success of these many improvements, registration appeals dropped by 60 per cent last year.

Of course, providing better access to clear information doesn't guarantee certification. Applying is a process. Providing better information cannot change someone's credentials.

The College welcomes competent, qualified teachers who meet Ontario's high professional standards, regardless of where they take their teacher education programs.