It has been a challenge to decide where to start this criticism of the current state of teacher employment in Ontario. I do want to discuss the front line problems with hiring, but a lot of those idiosyncrasies are the same ones that exist in every business that has ever existed. To understand why it is so challenging to obtain employment as a teacher in Ontario I think one must first look at simple economic principles of supply and demand. In Ontario there are currently to many teachers for the number of positions available — supply is dramatically out pacing demand. This leads to an obvious question: why are teacher preparation programs continuing to increase enrolment for an already saturated industry, or better still, why are students continuing to enter a profession that currently yields a 41% chance of finding regular employment?
One thing that could be said is that if the teacher employment crisis ever rights itself Ontario will be well served by teachers who want to teach, because it should be a safe assumption that those who enter a profession with such a bleak outlook for employment must really love their job. I do question how many of these new teachers grasp the true state of the employment situation. It is my assumption that no one is telling these potential students how difficult it is to find employment, and that these new teachers are making decisions based on old outdated employment data. Speaking from personal experience I can say that I was aware of the employment struggles, but I was lead to believe they existed in elementary school and the arts. As an intermediate/senior science teacher I’d have no problem securing a full time position at the first presented opportunity. Add to that the fact that I’d be willing to work in any school board in Ontario and I should have principles knocking down my door. I can now confirm that this was not the case, and all disciplines are essentially saturated with teachers. The data I was reading may have been true three years ago, but in 2008 it held no water.
The Ontario College of Teachers printed an article ‘Emerging employment crisis for new English-language teachers‘ in the December 2007 issue of their magazine Professionally Speaking. They report the grim statistics facing newly graduated teachers in Ontario. In 2000 there were 8,857 newly approved teachers in Ontario (from Ontario training programs, American border training programs, and International programs). These teachers were faced with a retiring teacher population that was creating some 7,096 positions, a difference of 1,761. Those 1,761 teachers would be able to find supply positions that could turn into contracts or full time work. Fast forward to 2006 data, where we now have some 12,434 newly trained teachers and only an estimated 5,325 retiring teachers, leaving 7,109 teachers seeking employment. Add to those numbers the recent announcement that 60 of the 72 school boards in Ontario are experiencing declining enrolment, and the question continues to be: why do we have so many teachers?
I have no data but I hear in conversation that teacher training programs in Ontario continue to increase enrolment. The anti-establishment retort is that they are in business to make money, so if students want to throw away $8,000 we’ll be happy to help them do that. There is a definite push from students who want to get into these programs, but at some point a line must be drawn and enrolment must be cut to get the employment crisis in line. Many people blame the acceptance of American and International trained teachers as the problem, but I think this is a short sighted critique. Some Ontario students consider these options for their offer of living life in a different culture, and being able to bring that experience back to Ontario to incorporate into their teaching. To deny students this option would be a blow to the country Canada is perceived to be on the world stage. So what is the answer? I think it has to start with an honest discussion of the current state of teaching in Ontario, and letting students know that it will be a challenge to find employment, that they will be lucky to get supply work, and they will have to win the lottery to get a full time position. If you really want to teach then go forth and fight the good fight, but if this is just something that you are doing to extend your time in school, or as a fall back, then perhaps you should consider a different course of action.
We could have worse problems than to many teachers. It is difficult to complain and try and place blame on a group of people who want to teach, who want to care, and who want to prepare and educate the next generation of Canadians.