Queen’s teacher candidates demand tuition refund over delayed placements

Duncan McArthur Hall, located at the corner of Union Street and Sir John A Macdonald Boulevard in Kingston, houses the Queen’s University Faculty of Education. Photo via Queen’s University Libraries on Flickr.

The delay in the mandatory placement for those in the Teacher Education Program at Queen’s University has students worried about the prospects of their degree completion.

Students state that the delay — compounded by limited communication from the Faculty — is preventing them from getting the whole experience of the Teacher Education Program and is depriving them of the essential experience they would gain through placements.

The teacher candidates were supposed to begin their practicum placements on Monday, Oct. 4, 2021. However, many of them have yet to find one. 

“The Faculty of Education has provided no adequate alternative to practicum, nor will they allow students to seek out their placements. Instead, they have instructed unplaced teacher candidates to complete six hours of self-led professional development in EDII topics per day of missed placement,” stated a petition started by students last week.  

“Students need this placement for valuable teaching practice and also to gain our OCT certification,” said one of the students affected, who preferred to remain anonymous. 

“The problem began near the end of September when very few students had received confirmation from the practicum office of their placements. We were supposed to start practicum on Oct. 4, and many of us still haven’t.”

Students have already paid fees for their practicum semester. They are demanding a rebate to compensate for the four weeks they have not been on placement and for the lack of proper communication from the Faculty. 

The Faculty of Education acknowledged the students’ concerns and noted that practicum placements in schools are currently a challenge across all Faculties of Education in Ontario as schools navigate the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know how frustrating it is for teacher candidates who do not have a practicum placement, and we are working tirelessly to place the less than 10 per cent of students who have not been placed yet,” said Dr. Peter Chin, Associate Dean of Teacher Education at the Queen’s Faculty of Education.

“We have reached out to all our students to provide alternative learning plans while we secure placements and have assured them that this will not impact their certification as teachers with the OCT, and they will graduate on time.” 

The students realize that the high enrollment in the program this year and the lack of placement spaces make it challenging to secure placements for everyone. The anonymous Teacher Education student discussed some possible solutions that the students think might work to address the issue; these could include “allowing students to assist in finding a placement, which the faculty has forbidden, [or] allowing students in Intermediate/Secondary placements, who make up the majority of students not placed yet, into [grade] 7/8 classes.” 

Other options could include “finding alternative practicum options, such as guidance, resource rooms, etc.,” the student said. 

The students also strongly urge the Faculty of Education to communicate with them regularly with updates. 

“The Faculty also could communicate with us more, provide us with money back based on the placements we have not received, or find an adequate alternative to placement such as modules, online observations, tutoring, etc.,” they said. 

The Queen’s Teacher Education program combines theoretical, practical, and experiential knowledge required in the field, and placement is a mandatory part of the program.  

The Education Students’ Society has also informed the students that if they ask the Faculty for a refund, they will get it, but there will be no placement search for them. Therefore, they will not graduate from the program. 

There are a total of 444 teacher candidates currently at Queen’s, 20 per cent of whom do not have placements, according to the students. However, the University said the number of the students currently in this situation is closer to 10 per cent.

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