TO CHANGE AND CHALLENGE AND OUR
CHILDREN/OUR FUTURE REPORTS
The annual Faculty Retreat, the third held since the restructuring of the Faculty in 1990, took place on September 3, 1992. The previous two retreats addressed changes, improvements and plans for the Faculty of Education, many of which had resulted from Focusing Our Future, the Report of the Presidential Committee to Review Teacher Education in Newfoundland and Labrador (1988), commonly referred to as the Hardy Report. Change was once again the main topic of discussion. The numerous changes proposed in two major provincial reports published earlier this year provided the focus of this year's discussions (i.e. Change and Challenge: A Strategic Economic Plan for Newfoundland and Labrador and Our Children Our Future the Report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Delivery of Programs and Services in Primary, Elementary, Secondary Education).
The faculty were welcomed by Dr. Crocker, Dean of the Faculty of Education. Faculty member Dr. Clar Doyle was the chairperson of the day's activities.
Mr. Cyril McCormick, Deputy Minister of Education, represented the Minister, the Hon. Chris Decker, and spoke on the recent provincial government report Change and Challenge. Mr. McCormick outlined briefly the major recommendations of the report and the general implications of these recommendations for the Faculty of Education. What seems to be the message is that major changes to the education system are necessary if Newfoundland is to survive its current economic crisis and adjust to the demands of a global economy. More coordination and collaboration is needed between educators and other community members, particularly those of the business sector. Partnerships are seen as essential to the economic viability of this province. More importantly for educators, it appears that they must respond to what the business sector considers to be the skills and methods necessary to educate for the future.
Dr. Len Williams, member of the Faculty of Education and Chairperson of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Delivery of Programs and Services in Primary, Elementary and Secondary Education, spoke on the Commission's Report.
Dr. Williams introduced the Report by outlining the procedures that the Commission followed in order to get as complete and accurate a picture as possible of the current educational system in the province and to make appropriate recommendations for improving it. The process utilized by the commission was a highly consultative one. It involved, for example , 36 public hearings in 29 different centres throughout the province, the participation of literally thousands in surveys, discussions, and the preparation and presentations of submissions. There was a total 1041 submissions from 173 communities representing all areas of the province. A significant number of the background research papers had been prepared by members of the Faculty of Education. The Commission's approach provides an excellent example of the kind of consultation recommended throughout the report.
The Commission's Report recommends substantial changes to the
provincial educational system in order to meet current and future needs.
The extent of the change recommended is indicated in the following quote
taken from the Summary Report:
... the development of a new mandate for schooling; the restructuring of the system's administration at the provincial, school district and school levels and the establishment of non-denominational school boards in place of the present system; the full involvement and enfranchisement of the public in the governance of the system; the development of attainment standards for students; the refinement of the process of curriculum development and implementation; and the improvement of existing practices at every level of the school system. (p. 2)
Time was set aside after the presentations for questions and comments by the Faculty. The faculty then met in small groups to discuss in greater detail what the speakers had said and to examine further the specific implications for the Faculty of the reports, Change and Challenge and Our Children Our Future. Subsequent to the discussions, the groups submitted brief reports which indicated a number of areas of particular interest and/or concern such as professional development, the proposed "university" schools, teaching and research, and collaboration between the Faculty and other educational agencies. As in any preliminary discussion of this nature, more questions and concerns than answers were generated.
Faculty expressed general concern over what appears to be an implicit assumption in these reports, especially in Change and Challenge; that is, the assumption that the current economic situation in which that the province finds itself is somehow a result of the education system. Is education really to be seen as the answer to our economic woes? We seem to believe that if we simply educate the people of, for example, Gaultois, our problems will be solved. What concerns the faculty is the narrow utilitarian approach to education which might be expected to follow such an attitude. Is education to be dictated by what the business community sees as its needs? Such an approach to education will not educate people to meet as yet undefined future needs. Such a narrow approach will ignore the humanities as well as many other needs of children and youth.
These reports have come at a time when major changes have been made and others are being planned in the Faculty of Education. Some of the reports' proposed changes and/or additions to the Faculty's programmes have been addressed already as a result of our recent restructuring. For example, the strategic economic plan includes the establishment of a centre of expertise for training teachers for rural and small schools. A number of the recommendations of the Royal Commission's Report also address the need for a such a centre and the need for improvements to both the preparation of teachers for rural areas and multi-graded classrooms and the curriculum offered in such environments. In this regard, a number of faculty members have recently been addressing the particular needs of teachers and students in rural areas and have been working cooperatively with teachers and other school board personnel to develop solutions in a collaborative way. At the time of the Faculty Retreat, the Faculty had submitted lo the Minister of Education for preliminary discussion a proposal for the establishment of a Centre of Expertise in Small Schools and Rural Education. The proposed centre is based on a collaborative model actively involving members of the Faculty of Education, the Department of Education, school boards and most importantly, the direct involvement of the teachers themselves. Such a model of collaboration is essential and is also a theme throughout both reports.
During the 1991-92 academic year, the Faculty established the Centre for Field Services and appointed a faculty member as its director. It is hoped that this will enable the faculty to contribute in a significant way to the many recommendations regarding the professional development of teachers throughout the province. Individual faculty have always been involved in professional development of teachers in the field. This Centre will facilitate more coordination and collaboration with other agencies and will take an active role with the other educational agencies in developing the Professional Development Centre proposed in the reports.
The Faculty is currently undertaking a follow-up survey of graduates to determine employment patterns and teacher preparation needs. As recommended in the Royal Commission's Report, such a survey will be conducted periodically in order to keep abreast of the ever changing needs of the school system and the teaching profession.
A new secondary education programme has been approved by the Faculty and is pending approval of the Senate. It will be a post-degree programme only. All those planning to become secondary school teachers will have to have completed a first degree before being accepted into the Bachelor of Education programme. To help ensure that more teachers are prepared in the teaching subjects, an additional requirement for applicants to the Faculty will be that they have at least 12 courses in one teachable subject and 8 in a second teachable subject.
One of the recommendations of the Commission's Report was the establishment of an External Advisory Board to the Faculty of Education. This board had been set up in 1991 in response to a similar recommendation made in the Hardy Report. This board represents teachers, school trustees, district superintendents, the Department of Education, the Newfoundland Teachers' Association, the Denominational Education Councils and Home and School Associations. It meets on a regular basis to discuss current issues, review proposed programme changes, and develop methods to facilitate collaboration between the Faculty of Education and the other educational agencies.
These are but a few of the examples of changes being made in the Faculty of Education. This coming year, further improvements to the preparation of those in the teaching profession will be made with the revisions of graduate programmes resulting from a very extensive and thorough review of all graduate programmes completed during the last academic year. Two undergraduate programmes, Learning Resources and Special Education, are now being reviewed by an internal committee to be followed by an external review.
It is clear that there are many issues and concerns raised by the Commission that are very important for the Faculty of Education and a number of those have already been addressed by the Faculty. The Faculty must continue to improve and increase collaboration with teachers and educational agencies and be prepared to respond more quickly than it has in the past if the province's educational system is to meet the needs of its students.