UNBC is considering different options and a more flexible approach to try to recruit more students to its education program.
“I’m very acutely aware of the teacher shortage over the past year since I began this role,” said Rebecca Schiff, UNBC”s dean of human resources and health sciences.
“In conversation with superintendents of northern school districts throughout B.C., we know there are a lot of barriers for accessing education, particularly for folks living in rural and remote communities.”
This year’s intake in the two-year program at the Prince George campus has 44 students, 26 for the elementary education program and 18 in secondary education. UNBC’s regional campuses in Quesnel and Terrace (which offer only the elementary program) have recruited 15 students.
Last year, School District 57 permanently hired 20 uncertified teachers and also relied on a pool of 100 teacher on call (who were also uncertified) to fill for teachers absent from classrooms due to illnesses or other reasons. Several of those uncertified teachers were hired before they completed their UNBC education degree.
“There are a lot of teachers in the schools who want to get their bachelor of education degree and they don’t have certification yet,” said Schiff. “But they can’t leave their school and leave their families and leave their community to come to Prince George and take a degree, and that’s something we’re really targeting, designing a program or various options that will make it more accessible to those folks.”
UNBC is offering packages of four courses to give student teachers unable to commit to a full-time program their “micro-credentials” before they enter the grade school system.
The UNBC education program is not funded on a per-seat basis and Schiff said there is capacity to take more students. Schiff said several more UNBC education applicants were approved but those students decided to accept similar offers to attend other universities.
Last year, UNBC produced 58 bachelor of education graduates – its highest total in more than a decade. That was more than double the 27 graduates from 2022, which reflects the lower intake of students during the fall of 2020 when the pandemic was at its worst.
There were 47 graduates in 2021, 46 in 2020, 43 in 2019 and 38 in 2018.