Social justice, diversity and aboriginal perspectives will be dominant themes in all courses offered by the University of B.C. education faculty starting next fall as a result of a program overhaul that’s been in the works for several years.
The subjects won’t be taught as separate courses but will be infused throughout the curriculum, Associate Dean Rita Irwin said in an interview this week. “The program will have a very different look and feel,” she noted.
There will also be greater emphasis on research and inquiry, along with a requirement for student teachers to complete an alternative practicum in a non-school setting — such as a community centre, a museum, or even a senior-citizens’ home. That’s intended to open students’ eyes to a variety of work opportunities beyond the often-tight job market for generalist teachers in Metro schools.
“It will help our graduates understand what they can do with their Bachelor of Education degree,” Irwin explained.
The exceptional emphasis on diversity will better prepare teachers for work in classrooms that include students with special needs and behavioural challenges. A special focus on aboriginal perspectives will help teachers encourage success among aboriginal students while also teaching all children to appreciate aboriginal culture, Irwin said.
While these studies are not new at UBC, they will no longer be confined to a separate course with lessons to be learned and set aside. Rather, they will be embedded throughout the program, which represents a change for both students and faculty, she added.
Asked what new students are likely to find most surprising upon entering the education faculty, Irwin said it is the ever-growing emphasis on professionalism and the message that once they become teachers, their actions — and their relationships with students in particular — will be under constant review.
“That’s an eye-opener for many of them,” Irwin said.
Last year, approximately 2,700 new teachers were certified in B.C. but only 1,500 new teaching positions were available, the university says. Nevertheless, Irwin says, there are still plenty of opportunities for graduates, including jobs teaching abroad.
BY JANET STEFFENHAGEN, VANCOUVER SUN
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