The United States isn’t the only country battling a teacher shortage. A recent report shows that Canada is struggling to keep up with demand for teachers as well. The report, 2021 Annual Report on Language Education in Canada was conducted by Languages Canada, and released in July. The report shows that nearly one out of five schools has difficulty hiring suitable teachers for job openings. Much like in the U.S., there is a vast disparity between teachers’ salary expectations and what schools are offering.
“The current day context of increased costs is the most severe financial pressure our members have experienced,” Languages Canada executive director Gonzalo Peralta told the Pie News, “Teacher salaries have increased, as have all other costs – classroom space, travel, activities and housing.”
The 2021 Annual Report on Language Education in Canada provides a clear picture of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canada’s English and French language education sector. 2020 numbers, while drastically lower than 2019, included a healthy first quarter. 2021 data, however, tell the full story of the impact of border restrictions, visa delays, costly testing and quarantine requirements, provincial lockdowns, and classroom capacity limits.
In 2021, Languages Canada members enrolled 57,423 students – the lowest number since the association began collecting student data via the annual members’ survey in 2008 and approximately one third of the number of students in 2019. This included 52,754 students studying English and 4,669 studying French. Fifty-one percent of student weeks were delivered entirely online (both in and outside Canada). Another twenty percent were delivered in a blended online/in-person format.
Proportionally, public sector members experienced a much more drastic drop in student number – a 28.4% decrease from 2020 versus a 5% decrease in student numbers for private Languages Canada members. Many English and French language programs within public colleges and universities were deemed non-essential for face-to-face learning up until the fall 2021 semester and were limited to virtual course delivery. Coupled with lack of access to federal wage and rent subsidies, the significant drop in student numbers and revenues was particularly impactful for public language programs.
Zachary Haché, a former classroom teacher who still works in the language sector in Montréal told The PIE News that many schools expect teachers to prepare lessons and mark assignments in their own time, reducing the actual hourly rate paid. He added that a number of programs in Montréal can no longer attract native speakers to teach ESL.
“The majority of the workforce of first-year teachers are non-native speakers who are recent immigrants to Canada,” he said. “These teachers are more vulnerable and more easily exploited. They also need more time to prepare their lessons,” which results in a huge turnover of teachers at private schools every year.
Still, the report is not entirely pessimistic. The language education sector emerged from 2021 with optimism for recovery and growth into 2022. With most border restrictions and quarantine requirements eased by fall 2021, Canada is positioned as a top choice destination for English and French language students. In fact, Canada gained global market share in the English Language Travel sector over the pandemic, from 12% in 2019 to 17% in 2020 (the most recent year available) and experienced less decline in student numbers in 2021 than competitor destinations UK, Australia and Ireland.