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Canada - Teaching Profession

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceCanada - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education


Canada takes pride in being a pioneer in teacher training in North America. The first teacher training institution, then referred to as a "normal school," operated in 1836 in Montreal. This was the first teacher training school in North America, opening three years before the United States began a normal school under the direction of pioneer educator Horace Mann. However, normal schools were slow to catch on in Canada, unlike the United States where they proliferated. Nonetheless, a handful of schools for teachers did open in Upper Canada and New Brunswick (1847), Nova Scotia (1855), Prince Edward Island (1856), and Quebec (1857).

A failed experiment in the late nineteenth century was the opening of model schools for teachers that required the briefest of courses and very little practice teaching. They largely died out in the early years of the twentieth century, but hung on in remote provinces until 1924, according to author-educator F. Henry Johnson who refers to the model schools as a "travesty."

The more rigorous normal schools flourished in most urban centers in Canada, but critics frequently objected to relaxed admission standards and failure to require a high school diploma for entry in many cases. The Roman Catholics also established normal schools for the training of nuns and laity in the twentieth century. Even by 1940, many normal schools such as one in Prince Edward Island still failed to require a diploma from high school for admission to their programs. Others, however, were more demanding in entrance requirements and curriculum improvements included the offering of classes in educational psychology (Johnson 1968). Many reform efforts were internal, the work of professional teacher associations. These groups advocated curriculum standardization, formal textbook adoption procedures, and the inclusion of teacher training at respected Canadian universities.

In modern Canada, teacher education programs are now part of university course offerings at numerous institutions, nearly all offering a curriculum overseen by departments of education. Teacher training is typically a vigorous one year program (in some cases two years), and would-be teachers spend an additional three or four years to receive their university degree. Standardization has not fully occurred, and teacher certification programs vary, depending upon the province or territory. Teachers typically specialize in elementary, middle, or secondary school programs. Others specialize in subjects such as the teaching of English or French as a second language. Many focus on specialty subjects such as music, the arts, or physical education.

Teacher education programs stress the learning of not only educational theory and academic subjects, but also require mastery in the classroom before actual students during practice teaching stints called practicums. By the twenty-first century, in spite of abundant reforms from 1940 to 2001, it became clear that teacher reform was an unfinished business. In New Brunswick, reformers frequently mounted platforms for methods to ensure that teachers experienced continuous growth and improvement over the course of their careers. The Canadian Association of Deans of Education (CADE) and the Association francophone des doyens, doyennes, directeurs, et directrices d'éducation (AFDEC) stress that good teachers need to continuously update their skills by reading, taking workshops, traveling, and participating in teacher exchange programs.

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