The University of Manitoba’s faculty of education will offer almost half of its spaces to self-identified diversity students starting in September 2017.

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The University of Manitoba’s faculty of education will offer almost half of its spaces to self-identified diversity students starting in September 2017.

The U of M emphasized all successful applicants must meet all mandatory entrance requirements. If there are not enough qualified applicants for the diversity spaces, those spaces will be offered to others.

Officials said the goal of the policy, which has been in development since 2012, is to ensure graduates of the U of M education program help to create a more diverse teaching force in the province, representing the "cultural, ethnic, regional and social diversity of Manitoba." 

The policy allows for up to 45 per cent of available positions in each stream of education (early, middle and senior years) to be allocated to applicants who self-identify in one or more of the diversity categories. The diversity categories include:

  • Canadian indigenous peoples: First Nations, Métis and Inuit: 15 per cent of each stream
  • Racialized persons: those who have been treated differently based on their perceived racial backgrounds, colour and/or ethnicity. Includes non-Canadian indigenous peoples: 7.5 per cent of each stream
  • Persons with a gender identity/sexual orientation difference: those self-identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, two-spirit or queer (LGBTTQ); 7.5 per cent of each stream
  • Persons with disabilities: those who have a physical, mental, psychological, sensory or diagnosed learning disability: 7.5 per cent of each stream
  • Disadvantaged persons: members of the University of Manitoba access program (those who have not had the opportunity for university study at the degree level because of social, economic or cultural reasons, or residence in remote areas) or those who have experienced other barriers because of their religion, creed, language or state of social disadvantage: 7.5 per cent of each stream

"That’s great news. It’s fantastic that the University of Manitoba is so progressive, that the person at the front of the classroom reflects the classroom," Manitoba Teachers’ Society president Norm Gould said.

"It’s important for students to see diversity in their teachers. It’s a very progressive step forward — kids need to see themselves reflected in the classroom," said Education Minister James Allum.

Gould said MTS does not track self-identified diversity among its 15,000 members, but it believes about 70 per cent are women.

"It’s safe to say it’s predominantly Caucasian," Gould said. "It’s skewed very high to women in the early years."

Gould could not speculate what the policy could mean to applicants, either those eligible to be among the 45 per cent, or those among the 55 per cent who will have fewer available spaces in 2017.

Unless teachers have specialized majors such as French immersion, math or senior high science, "It’s pretty tight in metro Winnipeg for jobs," he said.

Many grads have to settle initially for term positions or working as substitute teachers.

As for teachers from diverse backgrounds having better job prospects, said Gould, "Whoever’s in government, what’s their commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations?"

University officials said most current diversity policies across campus have been focused on indigenous and rural students.

Education associate dean Melanie Janzen said only the faculty of social work offers anything similar at the U of M, and the new policy is one of the most progressive for future teachers anywhere in Canada..

"The faculty of social work has been a leader on our campus in developing more equitable admissions policy (theirs allows 40 per cent of their admissions to be admitted through educational equity priority groups)," Janzen said.

"To my knowledge, this is one of the more aggressive admissions policies in faculties of education in Canada and is very progressive in the ways in which the variety of diversity categories that it acknowledges.

"The faculty of education consulted extensively with our field partners and has given careful consideration to the use of the various terms that represent diversity, attempting to align the language and intent of the diversity admissions policy with that of the Manitoba Human Rights Code," she said.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca