Photo by Sarah James/ The Phoenix News
Photo by Sarah James/ The Phoenix News

Following a last minute amendment proposed by the Faculty of Education, the UBCO senate on December 17 voted overwhelmingly to continue the Elementary Teacher Education Program for the 2016 intake and start the revised program for the 2017 intake. The amendment to the motion ultimately means that the ETEP program will still undergo much-needed revision and that students no longer have to worry about their program being cancelled for 2016/17.

The ETEP program has been in dire need of change for some time now, primarily in regards to financial costs and alignment with the hiring cycles of school boards. According to the acting dean of the Faculty of Education, Gordon Binsted, the new revised program to replace ETEP “is shorter, less expensive, gives more practicum experience and really prepares [students] much more for the diverse learning experiences they are going into.” The new program is also expected to include extensive field-based teaching experiences with opportunities to explore rural, urban, and international practicums in addition to changes that ensure the program is better aligned with the school boards hiring cycles. Essentially, think of the ETEP program as sort of like an iPhone: many people enjoy and depend on it, but after a number of years it becomes increasingly in need of repairs and your best option is to switch to a newΩ revised model.

The senate vote also came following weeks of controversy, after students who had already been accepted into the ETEP program were suddenly informed that it was to be suspended for the upcoming 2016 year.

According to the acting dean of the Faculty of Education Gordon Binsted, the new revised program to replace ETEP “is shorter, less expensive, gives more practicum experience and really prepares [students] much more for the diverse learning experiences they are going into.”

In October 2015, students accepted into the program were assured by UBCO Academic Advisors that “regardless of any changes, for the 2016 intake, the faculty will be admitting based on the existing admission requirements.” However, at the beginning of December an email was sent out to student applicants informing them that if the Okanagan senate approves the motion on the 17th, the program would be suspended and the faculty would no longer be admitting more students. Angered, students started up a petition on change.org to put pressure on the senate to vote against the suspension.

Days before the vote, senators learned that an amendment to postpone suspension until 2017 would be proposed, prompting the UBC Okanagan Student Senate to issue a statement: “We would like to start by saying that the Student Senate Caucus does not oppose a revision of a program. We like to see proposals that facilitate change to improve the quality of the education UBC provides to its students. However, we would like to see the financial implications as well as justification for approval of a new curriculum prior to suspending or cancelling a current program done in a manner that allows for discussion with all stakeholders: students, staff, and faculty.”

Students ask, 'where is my voice?'

During the senate vote, senators saw that there was sufficient justification for a new curriculum and voted in favour of the motion with the amendment. According to Shira Sneg, Chair of the UBC Okanagan Student Senate, this situation isn’t uncommon: “the University wants to change something, students appear to learn of it last minute, and they get upset. Students ask, ‘where is my voice?’”

“The Caucus discussed the proposal thoroughly during our regular meeting, and we felt that we needed more information about the new program before voting in favour of suspending an existing one. Luckily, we have a very active and committed Student Senate Caucus that’s ready to represent students… I think that it is great to see that the Faculty of Education listened to the students, we would have liked to have been part of the conversation earlier."