B.C. to regulate teacher professional development

Education Minister Peter Fassbender to require new training for teachers to maintain certification

Education Minister Peter Fassbender

The B.C. government is giving itself new authority to regulate ongoing teacher training, possibly requiring completion of new programs for teachers to maintain certification.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender said there are currently no detailed requirements for certified teachers to stay current with new education techniques. Those requirements are to be worked out with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, which was notified only hours before changes to the School Act were introduced in the legislature Thursday.

“There is no legislated requirement for professional development, nor is there a definition of what the route to that might be and what some of those tools are,” Fassbender told reporters Thursday. “That is why it is important that we work with the teaching profession to define that moving forward, and that’s what this bill allows us to do.”

There is no change to the five professional development days per school year that are currently part of the BCTF contract, or any requirement in the legislation that new training be delivered during those days.

B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker said education ministry officials have assured him there will be two years of consultation before changes to professional development are imposed. Any changes “need to be properly funded and respect teachers’ professional autonomy,” he said.

Iker was more concerned about another change that gives the ministry authority to impose shared services arrangements on school districts. He called the move “a diversion from underfunding,” after the government demanded $29 million in administrative savings from districts, many of whom say they can’t find any more savings.

Fassbender said school districts will have time to develop shared service plans themselves before anything is imposed by Victoria.

NDP education critic Rob Fleming said Fassbender and the B.C. Liberals have a “centralizing impulse” toward school districts, shifting authority to the education ministry that doesn’t have the capacity to make all those decisions.

The government forced all school districts into a new administration computer system that didn’t work, costing $120 million, so it doesn’t have the track record to lecture school districts on efficiency, Fleming said.