Canadian Teacher Education in Transformation
Teacher education has been lived out on the Canadian landscape for more than a century as we write this. In some parts of Canada, teacher education has been situated in an uneasy space between the universities and the schools for more than 50 years. Now, in all parts of Canada, teachers require university degrees and certification from provincial and territorial supervisory bodies before they can teach. In Canada, teacher education is a provincial matter not under the jurisdiction of the Canadian federal government. This has led to a diverse landscape for teacher education with varying requirements and programs. However, despite this diversity in the matter of pre-service teacher education, some issues and concerns persist across time and across the landscape. We see these issues as emerging from the changing nature of the Canadian society over time. For purposes of this introduction, we see two sets of changes: changes in the population and changes in how to think about professional education. These issues and concerns are reflected in a number of research reports (see, e.g., Enns & Duncan, 2001; Kosnik & Beck, 2001; Laferrière, 2001; Samson, 2001) that follow and resonate with our own experiences as teachers and teacher educators.
For readers unfamiliar with the Canadian educational landscape, it is important to note two things that make a difference to considerations of teacher education. One is that education is a provincial responsibility. Within provinces, geographic areas are organized into school boards and these are governed by a set of elected trustees and a local administration. Trustees, school board administrators, and teachers are not government officials. They are paid by and are responsible to the local school board. The second thing to note is that Canadian teachers are comparatively well organized into provincial and territorial teacher associations. These associations have two basic functions: a union function concerned with teachers’ working conditions and a professional development function. Teacher associations collect dues from their membership and are active both in negotiations with school boards over teachers’ working conditions and in policy negotiations with government.
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