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We Are Focusing On The Wrong Problem In Canadian Education

A high-quality education's effectiveness is determined by the quality of its teachers - teacher education, skills and training.

07/26/2017 17:08 EDT | Updated 07/29/2017 10:49 EDT
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In Canada, we are focusing on the wrong aspects of our education. The urgency should be improving the quality of our teachers. A teacher who is under-trained, under-educated, under-respected, and under-supported will not be able to achieve success no matter how small the class size. It doesn't matter whether we use inquiry-based learning or rote learning, because highly effective teachers can take any learning model and make it a success.

A high-quality education's effectiveness is determined by the quality of its teachers - teacher education, skills and training. Teachers in Finland, China, and Singapore are highly trained, highly supported and highly respected. Education is greatly valued in these countries and teachers are regarded as having a high status. Becoming a teacher is competitive as only a small percentage of the top applicants are selected.

Finland, Singapore, or China have different education systems compared to each other. Finland uses an inquiry-based learning model with minimal testing whereas Singapore and China use rote learning with lots of examinations. Yet all three countries have seen great advancements in their education in the world rankings.

Finland is well-known for its successful inquiry-based learning model that took its education to top world rankings. Singapore was the top ranking country in all categories (math, science, and reading) of the latest PISA international student assessments. Two Chinese universities took giant steps forward in the 2017 Times Higher Education World University Ranking and outranked UBC and McGill.

Too many good teachers in Canada feel under-valued and under-respected. Many get angry complaints from parents and school officials if they are challenging their students and holding them to high expectations. Teachers don't get the support they need and many quit the profession after a few years because they are frustrated with the system.

Since earning a Bachelor's of Education degree (B.Ed.) is easy it attracts a flock of candidates who do not necessarily have the passion, the skills, the knowledge, nor the commitment to become good teachers. And yet these individuals go on to earn just the same amount of money and compensation as those who passionately work hard for their students.

It's not that teaching pay and compensation in Canada is poor. Teachers' pay is comparable to many other professions with similar years of education. It's that the amount of pay doesn't make up for the things good teachers need to put up with and still feel under-respected, under-supported, and under-valued.

The only way to increase the value and respect for Canadian education and teachers is to make entrance into B.Ed. programs much more competitive and stringent. The low quality of education B.Ed. provides and the lack of support after graduation is not enough for someone who doesn't already demonstrate good teaching skills to learn them.

Policy makers should approach our education revamps with attention to improving the quality of teachers and teaching rather than replacing one failing system with another. We can make any education model a success if we have the best teachers educating our children.

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