Teach for Canada - Privatization of Aboriginal Education
In March 2015, the Ontario government announced it was partnering with Teach for Canada to recruit teachers for northern communities, including remote First Nations reserves. The government is contributing $70,000 to the project.
Teacher recruitment and retention is a serious challenge for these communities. The Teach for Canada project, however, is ill-conceived and an unfortunate example of privatization that will undermine the quality of public education in Ontario. The project will also set up northern, isolate communities as dependent on corporate charity over the longer term.
Teach for Canada is modeled after its U.S. counterpart, Teach for America. The American program recruits recent university graduates, most of whom don’t have teacher qualifications, to teach in schools in low-income communities. Teach for Canada is a non-profit charitable organization that has been scouting for opportunities within Canada to set up shop. There are higher regulatory standards for public education and the teaching profession in Canada. As a result, Teach for Canada is seeking to recruit recent graduates of teacher education programs. This focus on trained teachers distinguishes Teach for Canada from its American counterpart.
Other problems with the American counterpart, however, are inherent to Teach for Canada. Recruiting recent faculty of education graduates and providing them with a four-week training session will not address the fundamental issues related to the high turnover rate of teachers in isolate communities.
Beginning teachers, no matter where they teach in Ontario, require significant support and mentoring. They also need working conditions that enable them to meet their professional responsibilities. It is unrealistic to expect Teach for Canada recruits to remain in isolate communities for an extended period of time. A four-week program will not ensure that non-Aboriginal teacher graduates will have the necessary cultural sensitivities to fully understand and meet the needs of their students. There is no evidence that the Aboriginal communities embrace the Teach for Canada project as a sustainable or culturally appropriate model.
Desired Government Action