Nova Scotia to offer new fast-tracked teacher training from Cape Breton University
President of teachers union says plan is a positive step, but quality needs to be maintained
Cape Breton University in Sydney, N.S., is launching two fast-tracked programs for people wanting to train as teachers.
One is an online pilot project where students can complete the program and their practicum from anywhere in the province in eight months. That program begins in January and participants will be ready to enter the school system for the September school year.
The other option is a 12-month, in-person program that will begin in May 2024 and replace the university's current 15-month program.
Both programs consist of 48 credits of coursework and 12 credits of practicum work.
Ryan Lutes, president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU), said more teachers are needed in the province, but there are some fears these accelerated programs could impact the quality of training in the profession.
"We have a recruitment and retention crisis of teachers right now in Nova Scotia, so I think this will aid in some of the recruitment issues," Lutes said Friday afternoon.
"It seems like a really short period of time, so I worry that, you know, potentially the students coming out of that eight-month program may not be as prepared as they would have been if they were in it for longer."
Day of Action
This week's announcement comes on the heels of a Day of Action organized by the teachers union, to raise awareness about what they say is a teacher shortage in Nova Scotia.
According to a recent membership survey conducted by the NSTU, 70 per cent of teachers have lost marking and preparation time to cover for an absent colleague since 2022.
And 81 per cent of teachers say they've felt pressure to attend school while feeling sick, or cancel medical appointments, because of a lack of teachers.
Ellyn Lyle, dean of education at CBU, said one of the ways they're able to offer the bachelor of education certification in an eight-month time frame is because students can complete their practical experience at the same time as their studies.
"We're delighted that we've been able to keep all of [the] same programming, so same number of courses, the same courses, same course content … and same practicum hours," said Lyle.
"So we really haven't given up anything. What we've done is massaged it into a different form, if that makes sense."
Minister of Education Becky Druhan said she's aware teachers are being pulled away from regular activities when there are absences.
"That's why we've asked our universities to look at ways to accelerate quality programming," said Druhan. "And that's why we're so excited about the programming that CBU will be offering, because it will create more accessible, faster pipelines to create quality teachers to help support those needs now and also into the future."
Retention plan needed
Lutes said the province must not only attract new people into the profession, but it must also retain teachers who are already certified.
Some of the ways that can be done, he said, is by raising wages for substitute teachers, lowering class sizes and offering better support for teachers so they can do their work more efficiently.
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With files from Information Morning, Cape Breton