For the last ten years, in Canada, the provincial government predicted an epidemic of teacher shortages. This, it was claimed, would be caused by teachers, hired during the Baby Boom generation, entering into retirement. Of particular concern was the shortage of male teachers in the primary grades. Committees were formed, statistics compiled and recommendations made. Teachers Colleges across the country began to increase enrollment two and three times the amount of previous years. However, while these forecasts predicted unparalleled opportunities for new Canadian teachers, it soon became clear to recent graduates that the market was not as accessible as they had been led to believe.
Teacher strikes, pink-listed boards, budget cuts, and an over-abundance of new graduates all contributed to the current situation. Sure, new graduates can often find part-time employment as substitute teachers, on short-term contracts, or going to more remote northern aboriginal communities, but the availability of long-term contracts for newly graduated teachers is quickly diminishing. And the competition is fierce. Those teachers with the greatest success are those with advanced degrees, masters degrees and subject specialties that are still in high demand, such as French, physics, chemistry and math.
And with respect to the shortage of male teachers in the primary grades, the situation is also not as it would seem. The schools, in many cases, are simply not hiring men for the primary grades. Whether this is the result of traditional gender stereotypes that favor female teachers for younger children, or the influence of a public hysteria surrounding child sexual abuse, is unclear. What is clear is that, once again, male teachers who entered into the profession seeking to specialize in early childhood education, and to fill predicted shortages, are finding it increasingly difficult to find work.
For these teachers there is another alternative. Increasingly, new teachers are choosing to travel overseas to work as language teachers. This is a particularly attractive alternative for teachers with considerable student debt, or teachers not wishing to work in substitution positions. Working overseas is an adventure, an opportunity to learn about a new culture and study a new language. And why remain in a market where you are under-qualified and underappreciated when you can tap into a market where you are highly sought after and respected? Particularly in Asia, the opportunities for qualified B.Ed. teachers are limitless.
Recently new initiatives have started in some Asian countries to bring in qualified teachers to teach English in the public schools. Japan is the pioneer in this area with the JET programme, or Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme, which recruits both B.Ed. teachers and TEFL teachers to work in rural schools. The Taiwan Ministry of Education also recently started the ‘Foreign Teacher Recruitment' program to bring qualified B.Ed. teachers into the public school system.
A market ill-equipped
However, a problem arises when B.Ed. teachers attempt to get work with local language schools. Language schools often do not recognize the qualifications of a B.Ed. teacher. Often directors of schools have no background in the field of education and so do not know how to assess the credentials of a B.Ed. teacher. Policy is often outdated and does not take into account the possibility that a B.Ed. teacher might apply for a position. Schools, wanting to employ teachers who will be able to obtain a visa, are often unaware that the Ministry of Education does not require TEFL certificates for teachers who possess an education degree.
There is also some contention among TEFL teachers with regard to the qualifications of a B.Ed. teacher. Some TEFL teachers would argue that holding an education degree does not mean that you are qualified to teach English. Courses in language acquisition and education theories directly related to teaching English are absent from most education programs, and so B.Ed. teachers are ill-equipped to be teaching English. On the other hand, some B.Ed. teachers might argue that a six week TEFL course is hardly a sufficient course of study compared to a four year degree in education.
However, despite our differences, B.Ed. teachers need a community too. A place to call home. A forum to communicate with other teachers and to find support and assistance. If we are to meet with success we need to speak with other teachers who have gone before us. If we are to grow as teachers we need to be able to exchange ideas and to learn from each other. If we are to enjoy our time here, we need to seek friendship with those we have the most in common with.
As a B.Ed. teacher myself, I hope that I can find a home here on ajarn.com. I hope that you will welcome me here as one of your own. I hope that I might provide a resource for other B.Ed. teachers. And I hope that, by providing an alternative perspective, I can help us to grow as a community.