For the past two months, Thirugnanasambanthar Thirukkumaran has been working as a volunteer teacher full-time at the West Hill Collegiate Institute, waiting for his teacher’s certificate to arrive.
If not for him, his grades 11 and 12 are not regular chemistry teachers. Despite this, he was denied a certificate to teach by the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) for the last month.
“It’s kind of discrimination, for me,” said Thirukkumaran, who’s been tutoring students for the past two decades. It currently has its main source of income.
Thirukkumaran says he went back to school at age 43 to get his bachelor’s education.
“[The OCT] Should appreciate that and give support – instead, they push me back. “
Advocates say situations like Thirukkumaran’s highlight of a problem in Ontario’s education system that allow teacher candidates to slip through international education through the cracks, despite a teacher shortage driven by retirements and COVID-19.
Fewer than 400 early-career graduates across Ontario were out of work and available for teaching jobs in 2021, compared to the peak of the teacher surplus in 2014, when more than 7,700 were unemployed, according to OCT estimates.
According to documents from World Education Services, a non-profit that evaluates international credentials for students and immigrants in the US and Canada, Thirukkumaran has two chemistry credentials from Sri Lanka and Australia, a bachelor’s degree and a post-graduate diploma here. Canada.
Thirukkumaran, who came to Canada in 2012 and is now a permanent resident, says he was both accepted by Ontario Tech University – where he graduated with a bachelor of education in 2020 – and by York University, where he is working toward a masters of science degree. General Chat Chat Lounge
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It’s been demoralizing to know a passionate and “overqualified” educator like Thirukkumaran can’t get financially compensated for his hard work, says West Hill principal Trevor Bullen.
“It seems to be there that decisions are made [made] about certain countries and their degrees of validity, “Bullen said.
“We’ve got to talk about not just him — but any other person who comes to this country, does everything possible and wants to give back the opportunity — in the job of their chosen field.”
At a disadvantage
A statement from OCT spokesman Andrew Fifield says privacy laws prevent the college from sharing any information regarding specific applicants.
However, he says completing a professional teacher education program in Ontario does not guarantee an applicant will get certified. Denials are given if an applicant does not meet the bar for criteria such as academic credentials, teacher’s education, and language proficiency requirements.
“By law, these requirements must be met by all applicants, regardless of labor market trends,” says Fifield.
“We cannot assess applications based on teaching experience alone.”
In practice, it is not uncommon for internationally educated applicants to be disadvantaged when applying for their license, says Karen Littlewood, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation.
It ‘s getting the applicants to come forward with it.
“They are very reluctant to say anything or do anything for fear of being locked out of the system,” says Littlewood.
“There are many qualified people all over the world who will have assets in our buildings. When it looks like discrimination is there, it is quite often,” says Littlewood.
The disadvantage often shows up in the job-hunting process, too. In 2021, teachers new to Canada educated elsewhere and then licensed in Ontario reported the highest rate of unemployment among the province’s teacher graduates at 37 per cent, according to the OCT.
But in these numbers of spite, the only high school diplomas with uncertified teachers are filling in as supply teachers across the pandemic.
“They are either volunteering or they are working as unqualified and getting paid significantly less with absolutely no job security, no health or dental benefits,” says Littlewood.
“Qualified people being turned away from work doesn’t make sense.”
Thirukkumaran says while he was disappointed with the OCT’s decision, he intends to appeal through a litigation lawyer and support from Ontario Tech University. His goal is to prevent others from being caught in similar situations.
For now, he is determined to continue teaching his 73 students until the end of the semester, to avoid disrupting their education on top of the damage the COVID-19 pandemic has already done.
“I can’t say I can’t come. Their grades, studies and their future will be destroyed,” Thirukkumaran said.
“It’s not just the student, it’s their family, their future, and it’s my satisfaction, too.”