A status report on teaching in Canada

For students here in Canada considering a career in education, things are a little different from what their counterparts in the United States find. In the first place, teaching posts north of the border are hard to come by: Canada is not experiencing a baby boomlet, as the US is, nor has there been as large an exodus of teachers from the ranks as in the US.

In addition, first-year teachers in Canada regularly command salaries of more than $20,000 (Canadian) - a figure rarely matched to the south.

Put these differences aside, however, and one finds the profession similar in the two neighboring countries. According to teachers and university educators, fewer Canadian students - especially among the brightest - choose to go into education, and those who do find the profession widely demoralized by poor working conditions and lack of community respect.

Toni Zannis is one who decided to follow her childhood dream to be a teacher. Most of her classmates at an elite private girls' school went on to study such subjects as law or accounting. She is now in her first year of teaching geography and history to seventh- and eighth-graders in a Roman Catholic school.

Ms. Zannis, who completed her college education at McGill University, says she feels ''a little bad'' about getting her job when so many experienced teachers are looking for work. ''But that's one reason I got the job: I come cheap,'' she says, which to an American is a rather remarkable statement, considering she will make $21,500 this year. Her employers match a provincial pay scale for public school teachers which goes up to $43,100 for one with 15 years' experience and a PhD.

In Quebec, the student planning to teach in primary or secondary schools has two academic roads to follow. After a required two-year postsecondary program - similar to that of an American community college - the student can choose either a three-year teacher training program or one that requires 11/2 years of specialized teacher training after a three-year baccalaureate degree. In the other provinces, the course of study is much like that in the US: four years to achieve a bachelor-of-education degree, plus a year of teacher training. Ontario is just now going to two years of training, and other provinces will probably follow. Unlike their American colleagues, however, all Canadian teachers face a two-year probation period before receiving their licenses.

Morton Bain, director of teacher education at McGill, says lack of jobs is one reason the number of students in his program has dropped from 1,500 in 1972 to about 150 today. ''And this is true of every part of the country,'' he adds. Educators expect the profession to open up by early in the next decade, as large numbers of teachers retire.

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