The University of Toronto has halted admission of high school students to its Concurrent Teacher Education Program following changes to the bachelor of education program offered throughout the province.

In June, the government of Ontario announced that a two-year bachelor of education program is set to replace the province’s current one-year B.Ed. programs starting in September 2015.

“It’s not a big surprise,” said John Smith, the CTEP and internship coordinator at UTM, in an interview. “We knew the ministry was moving in this direction, but we were taken aback by the speed [with] which this decision was made.”

The dean of OISE, Professor Julia O’Sullivan, informed Smith in the final week of August that based on information O’Sullivan had received from the Ontario College of Teachers, which certifies CTEP’s teacher candidates, the program would not accept another cohort.

CTEP allows students to earn two undergraduate degrees simultaneously over five years of full-time study: an honours bachelor of arts or science plus a bachelor of education. All successful candidates receive certificates from the Ontario College of Teachers.

The move on Ontario’s part to a two-year program is in emulation of Canada’s other provinces and territories, whose B.Ed. programs are already two years.

Other universities are offering another year of concurrent education admission, since the Ontario College of Teachers will continue to certify candidates from such programs until August 2015.

U of T’s immediate reaction is a response to a need to refocus, according to Smith. A proposal for alternative education degrees at UTM is in the works, he said, thanks to the efforts of vice-principal and dean Amy Mullin and vice-dean undergraduate Kelly Hannah-Moffat (who has been a constant advocate of CTEP), among others.

“We are in the process of developing an education minor,” Smith revealed. “We’ve got to start looking forward. We want to continue to provide opportunities for UTM students who want to pursue a career in education.”

Currently, experiential learning is heavily integrated into CTEP students’ coursework, which includes a school placement in each of the five years of the program. The placements involve 10 to 150 hours of work, depending on the course.

The proposed education minor, one of the alternative options being developed, would still offer these placements, which provide a gradual introduction to teaching that is, Smith believes, an advantage over consecutive teacher education programs.

“These experiences would allow students an opportunity to test the waters, so to speak, and see if teaching is for them,” said Smith. “We’ve had stellar students who have found that teaching is their calling. Conversely, we’ve had students who have found another parallel pathway they want to pursue—in social work, for example.”

Currently at UTM, CTEP must be completed with an anchor subject, or “teachable”, in French, chemistry, math, or psychology, with a focus on exceptionality in  human learning for those who wish to teach special education. The proposed education minor would retain these anchors, with the possibility of adding a physics option, said Smith.

Should it be approved, the education minor will be part of the Department of Language Studies. A large portion of current CTEP students have French as their primary teachable.

Smith spoke briefly about the challenges involved in the creation of CTEP, which admitted its first class for the 2007/08 year with a small enrolment.

“We had a lot of potholes and speed bumps along the way, but we had a lot of resilient teacher candidates. They are wonderful individuals,” said Smith. “It’s a very successful program.”

Two classes have graduated from the program, one this year and one in 2012. This year, according to Smith, there are 64 students in fifth year, 89 in third year, and 93 in second year. The two most recent years declined to about 50 in response to a decision by OISE to reduce enrolment based on the Ministry of Education’s plan to reduce the overall number of students in teacher education, said Smith.

CTEP students are eager to praise the young program.

“I’ve thought it was rather well-organized, the way we do our bachelor of arts and our bachelor of education simultaneously and how we have direct entrance into OISE,” said Fiorella Parodi, a fifth-year CTEP student completing a combined specialist in French and Italian teaching and learning.

“CTEP is a unique program that has contributed to my professional and personal development in many ways,” said Said Sidani, a fifth-year CTEP student with a major in French teaching and learning. “Through my courses on education and various field placements over the past five years, I’ve gained transferable skills that have allowed me to excel in all areas of my life.”

Sidani shared Smith’s view on developing education programs that allow students the opportunity to explore a career in education before committing to it.

“A potential next step could be to develop some education-focused courses and perhaps introduce an education minor at UTM which gives undergraduate students a general idea of what teaching is like,” said Sidani. “I would hate to spend two years in teachers’ college and then realize teaching isn’t for me. CTEP allowed me to constantly reflect on goals after every semester.”

Paul Filaber, a fifth-year CTEP student with teachables in French and history, agreed that the gradual exposure is valuable.

“The CTEP component makes up for a year of teachers’ college, which is about equivalent to the year total that you spend on a minor. Is it better to do a minor over the course of your entire undergrad or to do it in one year?” asked Filaber in an interview. “The value of prolonged exposure and progression through the courses as well as the increased opportunities to provide placements is not something the best teachers’ college can provide in a year. Additionally, the length of time allows people who aren’t called to teaching to more easily recognize this and change direction.”

Filaber added that the changes to CTEP are necessary.

“I understand that with government changes to teachers’ colleges, CTEP has to adapt,” he said. “I think a lot of students are missing an excellent opportunity in the absence of CTEP, but hopefully the alternatives that OISE is planning will stay true to and build on the value of CTEP.”

Last year, CTEP had the highest average grades among incoming high school students of any program at UTM. This year, they have the second-highest, missing the top title by a fraction of a percentage.

Students currently registered in their first year of undergraduate study who apply for admittance into the second year of CTEP will be allowed to continue their studies as planned. Entry into the second year of CTEP will be discontinued thereafter.