Recent reports written by Arthur Levine, the former president of Teachers College Columbia University in New York City, called into question the quality of most graduate programs for school teachers and administrators in the United States.
Levine found that most of these programs had low entrance standards, unmotivated students, unproductive faculty members and courses that were irrelevant to the real challenges facing teachers and administrators.
While the situation does not appear to be as bleak in Manitoba, there are signs that the University of Manitoba is making some of the same mistakes outlined in the Levine report.
As in the United States, for every additional year of university education completed, Manitoba teachers and principals receive a salary increase from their school divisions. Surprisingly, the courses do not have to be relevant to their current jobs.
This type of economic incentive encourages teachers and principals who would otherwise not be pursuing graduate work to do so.
Almost 90 per cent of the graduate students in Education programs (M.Ed., Ph.D., and P.B.D.E.) are enrolled on a part-time basis. This means that most of them work full time, which leaves little time for in-depth academic work.
Two 6-credit-hour summer institutes offered by the Faculty of Education are evidence of the low academic standards since these courses are compressed into two weeks.
The Faculty of Education also offers a number of off-site courses to teachers and principals from individual school divisions. Courses offered away from the main campus are more likely to be of lower academic rigour.
Entrance requirements for the M.Ed. program need to be more rigorous because they are considerably below the standard for graduate programs in other faculties.
If these trends continue, the Levine reports will become as applicable to graduate programs in Manitoba as they are to programs in the United States.