Problems With Teacher Certification Go Beyond the Education Bureaucracy

Want to become a public-school teacher? If so, you need a teaching certificate from Manitoba Education’s certification unit. Provincial regulations state that prospective teachers must hold a Bachelor of Education […]
Published on November 25, 2023

Want to become a public-school teacher? If so, you need a teaching certificate from Manitoba Education’s certification unit.

Provincial regulations state that prospective teachers must hold a Bachelor of Education degree from a recognized university.

This requirement is clear—if you received your education from a Canadian university. Things get trickier if you were educated in another country and you want to teach in a Manitoba public school.

That is because the certification unit needs to assess whether the degree you received meets the Manitoba standards. This requirement has led to significant confusion.

In a recent example, an experienced computer science teacher was denied a permanent certificate because she did not complete the required number of “professional education courses.” While she had completed the necessary 30 credit hours at the University of Manitoba, nine of those credits were taken outside of the faculty of education, which is not allowed for certification.

Ironically, this teacher’s academic advisor told her that there was no problem with taking some courses in other faculties. Even though this teacher followed her advisor’s advice, a person the certification unit told her to consult, the certification unit would not give her a certificate. Thus, unless this teacher takes nine more credit hours from the faculty of education, her limited teaching certificate will expire at the end of the current academic year.

This is a patently absurd situation. Someone who has plenty of credentials in computer science and is already teaching in that field has obviously been judged to be an effective teacher. No one could seriously argue that an extra nine credit hours of education courses, three courses, would make a difference between being able to teach and not.

However, we must ask an even more fundamental question: Why is a Bachelor of Education degree necessary in the first place?

I graduated with my Bachelor of Education degree more than 25 years ago. While it provided tidbits of useful information, most of the education courses did little to prepare me for the realities of classroom teaching. For example, these courses taught me next to nothing about classroom management or about how to design valid and reliable tests.

The one positive aspect of my education degree was my teaching practicum. During the practicum, I was mentored by several excellent teachers who told me to ignore everything I learned in my education courses. Not surprisingly, I followed their advice and became a much better teacher as a result.

The uselessness of education courses has been an open secret for decades. Thus, if a classroom practicum has significant value while education courses have limited value, it makes sense to create an alternative certification process that focuses on the former rather than the latter.

While learning how to teach is obviously important, this does not happen in most education courses. It is far more likely that teachers will gain insight by working with expert teachers in real classrooms and receiving practical feedback from them. And it should be possible to get this practical experience without having to take two years of worthless education courses.

Manitoba’s new education minister should take a close look at the current teacher certification requirements. It doesn’t make sense to keep qualified teachers out of the classroom just because they haven’t taken enough education courses.

 

Michael Zwaagstra is a public high school teacher and a Senior Fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

 

Related Items:

Watch Michael Zwaagstra on Leaders on the Frontier here recorded November 15, 2023.

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