|November 12, 1999||Volume 7, Number 6|
Education College gives boost to aboriginal teacher training
By Colleen MacPherson
If it ain't broke, don't fix it but you might still want to revisit it, rethink it and retool it. That's the approach the College of Education is taking with its teacher education programs as part of its commitment to respond to the needs of aboriginal students.
Dr. Sam Robinson, recently appointed to the post of academic co-ordinator for aboriginal teacher education, said the college's long and successful history with its "TEP" programs which include the Northern Teacher Education Program (NORTEP), Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP) and the Indian Teacher Education Program (ITEP) does not preclude re-examining the role of those programs within the college and the wider university community.
"There's nothing wrong with where we are now," he said. "We have strong, mature programs, committed faculty, a proven track record and dedicated TEP staff, but it's time to reconsider the spirit of our relationship. My job is not to say there's something wrong that we have to fix. It's to determine where we need to grow, to move on."
Although the process is at a very formative stage, among the issues Robinson hopes to explore is that of aboriginal languages, many of which are in danger of disappearing. The college, he said, needs "to determine what role we can play in securing aboriginal languages" and preparing teachers with a strong oral base.
Another is "a perennial one" that of increasing involvement in math and sciences and preparing aboriginal teachers to teach these subjects.
The college already offers aboriginal students a class that combines both math content and the teaching of math, "and possibly we could expand that model into science, which is kind of exciting."
Robinson said adding secondary teacher preparation is another area to be examined. Currently, only elementary and middle-years programs are available to TEP students.
At the same time, according to its five-year plan, the college "would be remiss" in not recognizing that by the year 2011, aboriginal people are expected to account for 38 per cent of Saskatchewan's 0-24 age group a strong indicator of the need for teachers prepared at all levels of the education system.
The plan also states the college is moving toward upping the number of faculty teaching in the TEP programs. Robinson said that over the years, sessional teachers have replaced many faculty members in the programs which operate in satellite locations like the Gabriel Dumont Institute in Prince Albert.
Using an action-research model, Robinson said he sees himself as "the helper/facilitator to talk and work with the TEP programs to try and bring into practice their vision, their understanding, their wishes and desires."
Thanks in part to his own personal relationship with the programs over his many years with the college, Robinson said there has been general acceptance of his new role, "which is not to rock the boat but maybe to add a new paddle."
"Our goal is to strengthen and enhance the TEP programs, but in the context of the programs themselves, the college and the university.
"It's co-ordinating without control."
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