Ontario May See Non-Tech Teachers in New Mandatory Technical Education Classes

Ontario is proposing to allow teachers without technology credentials to teach certain technology courses next school year, which teachers and principals say indicates the province is not prepared for the new mandatory nature of those classes.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced last year that starting in September 2024, high school students will be required to take a technology and skilled trades course in grades 9 or 10 in order to graduate.

But the government is now “exploring options” to allow headteachers to assign teachers with general education qualifications (who may not have technology qualifications) to teach those courses over the next year.

There is already a shortage of teachers, let alone teachers specializing in technology, even before adding new mandatory requirements for students to take those courses, said Ontario Board of Principals president Ralph Nigro.

“The introduction of the courses is something that we are generally very supportive of, but I think other measures needed to be taken before their implementation, such as creating additional places in teacher training programs for technology teachers,” Nigro said in an interview.

“It looks like that didn’t happen and when you take into account … the teacher shortage for several years, we’re very concerned about having enough people in place.”

A spokesperson for Lecce said the government has taken steps to recruit and retain qualified educators across Ontario.

“We have enabled school boards to hire more specialized professionals with practical experience, as well as ensuring that more educators in schools can teach introductory courses,” Isha Chaudhuri wrote in a statement.

“In doing so, students will learn through Ontario’s modernized curriculum that emphasizes life skills, STEM, skilled trades and basic education.”

The proposed new regulation recently released by the government said principals could assign a teacher without technology credentials to teach courses as long as that teacher agrees.

Principals don’t have a clear idea at this point how many teachers might be okay with that, Nigro said.

“I’ve been a high school principal since 2003, and generally speaking, high school teachers (and I’ve been one myself) for the most part don’t like teaching outside their area of ​​certification,” he said.

“Their preference is to teach in the area for which they have been trained and where they have specialization.”

The president of the main secondary teachers union is concerned that many teachers will accept this because they will feel they don’t have many options.

“Because people languish on supply lists or teachers’ occasional lists, there are many people who will agree to do something outside of their subject, either as a favor to the principal or because next year they will get the course they want instead of that’s what we want to teach,” said Karen Littlewood, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation.

“In my opinion, it’s not in the best interest of the students.”

Like Nigro, Littlewood supports students receiving more technology education, but said the new requirements probably should have been phased in or tested in some way first.

The courses are advertised as “practical”, but Littlewood worries that without qualified technology teachers they will end up being “a sort of careers in technology course, which I don’t think will do anything to alleviate or address the shortage”. of people who are dedicated to the trades”.

Ontario should look at how to get more people with industry certifications in these trades to become teachers, as there are currently big disincentives, Littlewood said. Tradespeople would have to quit their jobs, attend a regular school for two years and then start at the bottom of the pay scale to work in a school, she said.

“Many of them make less money when they go into education, but they do it because they want to support students and their industry in the future,” Littlewood said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2024.

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