Future teachers left hanging

UBC Okanagan students have been left hanging after a program they were counting on in 2016 was cancelled.

At a time when student stress levels are high during exams, an email last week changed their entire schooling plans.

Students who had been working for years, preparing and taking the correct classes to enter the Elementary Teacher Education Program in 2016, were told their applications are now null and void.

“I was pretty upset, frankly. I was really counting on the program,” says Christy Nettleton. “I cried for a while and started to get really upset about the lack of information they were giving us.”

That sentiment is shared by fellow student Heather Hildred.

“I read the email and burst out crying,” says Hildred. “I don't know what I am going to do now. If this goes through, I don't know what I am going to do.”

Hildred and Nettleton both say when they were first told about pending changes, they were concerned they might be taking the wrong prerequisites for the new program and asked advisors for assistance. Both say they were assured in September the program would still go ahead with the same prerequisites in 2016.

“They told us the Faculty of Education is committed to sticking to those prerequisites for my enrolment in September 2016,” says Hildred.

“Two months ago, I was told they would be accepting applications under the old requirements,” adds Nettleton. “Now, we are supposed to just sit around and wait or take another year of university courses.”

Both students are in their third year of post-secondary education, all leading up to that 2016 program. They're shocked the school would suspend it for an entire year, leaving them in limbo.

Hildred and Nettleton both say they've had difficulty getting hold of faculty to get any information on what the changes mean for them or what new courses they now require.

Acting dean of the Faculty of Education Gordon Binsted says the changes will greatly improve the program.

“It is actually a much-improved program, in response to the feedback we have gotten,” says Binsted. “It is shorter, less expensive, gives more practicum experience and really prepares them much more for the diverse learning experiences they are going into. Really, this is a better program.”

As for the students' claim they were told in September that the 2016 program would still be going ahead, Binsted says students have been told changes were coming for some time.

“Since January 2014, we began foreshadowing this, letting students know that there were be changes likely coming up,” says Binsted.

“That potential was communicated on the university website, calendar, and students were encouraged to reach out to advising. And advising was given the most up-to-date information as we moved forward. We've been communicating this generally for a year.”

He says the university couldn't possibly know which students would apply for the program and that as soon as applications came in, they let them know.

“As soon as they did apply, we let them know what their options were, and we are happy to work with them in terms of trying to find programs within the Faculty of Education that will get them where they need to go,” says Binsted.

“If the elementary education program is really their only interest, then our recommendation to them is that our new program is going to be even better – actually graduate them quicker than the existing program does.”

Binsted says despite having to wait a year, the shorter program will mean those who wanted the September 2016 start date will graduate just six months later than they had initially planned.

“The most important thing is that the new program is a superior program ... The new program is cheaper, shorter and specifically designed to make them more hireable by the school districts.”

Hildred and Nettleton remain frustrated.

“I can't just spend another year waiting to go to school,” says Hildred. “What are we supposed to do for that year? I am very disappointed and I am very angry.”

The changes proposed by the Faculty of Education still need final approval from the UBCO Senate – which votes on the proposed changes December 17.  


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