Retirements, population rise create looming teacher shortage in New Brunswick: study

  • Canadian Press

FREDERICTON — New Brunswick is facing a looming teacher shortage and steps must be taken to recruit and retain more educators in the province, a new study warns.

An upcoming wave of retirements along with population growth are creating a need for the province to invest more in the education system, said the study published this month by the University of New Brunswick. Teachers will be especially needed in subjects such as French immersion and STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

"Coupled with earlier research that revealed about 30 per cent of Canadian teachers leave their jobs within their first five years of service, this projection may present a supply and demand imbalance for teachers in the N.B. education system," the study said.

New Brunswick is facing the "double effect" of an expected drop in supply of teachers along with a "big" increase in demand for them, study lead author Ted McDonald said in an interview Tuesday.

"We need to be proactive now in figuring out what can we do to bring and educate more teachers through the bachelor of education programs, to keep more of them in New Brunswick and to keep them working for longer," said McDonald, a UNB political science professor.

The study found that about 52 per cent of students who graduate with a bachelor of education in New Brunswick don’t teach in the province. The percentage of international graduates in the education program who remain in New Brunswick as teachers is 10 per cent.

The study didn’t offer the exact number of teachers who would be needed to meet the expected rise in demand; McDonald said that figure would be the subject of future research.

A March 2022 news release from the province said New Brunswick’s population increased by more than 40,000 people over the past five years. The province is experiencing the highest rate of population growth since 1976, it added.

The reasons teaching graduates leave New Brunswick include better economic opportunities elsewhere, family obligations and a shortage of doctors, he said.

"If you’re not from here, and you’re facing new challenges, especially if you’ve just moved here, where you’re pretty mobile, you haven’t put down roots, you might be recently in the job, you might be more tempted to leave," McDonald said.

The study also found that teachers in the anglophone system are more likely to leave the profession within the first five years compared with teachers in the francophone sector.

"In terms of labour market opportunities, anglophone (graduates) have more English language teaching opportunities in the rest of Canada, whereas N.B.’s bilingual status and francophone school districts may mean there are more opportunities to teach in French in N.B.," the study said.

Peter Lagacy, president of the New Brunswick Teachers Association, said the study confirms what teachers have been witnessing first−hand in schools, and offers concrete evidence that New Brunswick must change course.

"By working together now, we can retain and attract certified teachers through improved classroom conditions, targeted mentorship, and initiatives to streamline pathways into the profession or remain in New Brunswick’s public education system," he said in a statement.

McDonald said it’s important that the government and the public appreciate the province is facing a teacher crisis. The warning signs, he said, are similar to those researchers gave politicians years ago about how the country would see a shortage of nurses and doctors — a prediction that came true.

"It’s something that we can’t wait to solve," he said on the looming teacher shortage. "We need to work now."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2024.

The Canadian Press

Photo: graduates

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