John Milloy, Minister of the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities ("MTCU"), announced today that if the provincial Liberals win the upcoming election they'll double the length of teachers college to two years. This announcement came under the guise of increasing teacher quality, but what's underpinning this policy is the massive glut of young teachers who have been unable to find jobs due to the absence of labour market planning by Ontario's government. The dimensions of this problem were traced in a report by the Ontario College of Teachers earlier this year which found that there was: a vast oversupply of new teachers amid a period of weak demand for their services; systemic unemployment and underemployment of new teachers; and, a long-term trend that indicates weak future employment prospects for new teachers.
The burning question is why was this problem allowed to progress to the point of crisis. The Ministry of Education and the MTCU created this problem by: tacitly encouraging tens of thousands of students to attend teachers college while knowing that the labour market in the broader public sector could not provide jobs for most of them; allowing universities to overload education faculties with record numbers of students; abdicating any sort of responsibility vis-a-vis workforce planning as result of the proliferation of the neoliberal approach to governance which holds that governments have no place "interfering" in the labour market; and, allowing the proliferation of information asymmetries by not informing education students about the actualities that exist for new teachers in the current poor labour market. Much like the problem currently faced by recent law graduates, it seems that new teachers have been left holding the bag for years of shoddy work by bureaucrats, the continuing "see no evil, hear no evil" stance by university administrators, and the inaction by organizations representing teachers which rushed to support the end of mandatory retirement at the expense of intergenerational equity.
While increasing teacher quality is a laudable policy goal and this move has been discussed for a number of years, it's entirely possible that prospective teachers can be prepared for the classroom without increasing the amount of time it takes or the amount of tuition charged. Forty years ago my mother was eighteen when she started teaching after one year of teachers college, now young people are expected to stick it out in university for six years or more for the chance to compete for a shrinking number of jobs. It appears that policy makers didn't consider nuanced alternative measures such as expanding the number concurrent education degrees or increased screening of candidates before floating this flawed policy balloon. It's not fair or equitable that this generation has to bear the brunt for past policy blunders or has to contend with a government that is unwilling to enact policy that eases the entry of young people into the labour market. If you have any comments please send me an email and for my previous posts on this topic see: here and here.