UBC’s dean of education, Blye Frank, was in a good mood when contacted recently by the Straight. Earlier this summer, the QS World University Rankings—prepared by Quacquarelli Symonds—listed UBC first among Canada’s 62 schools and faculties of education. His faculty of education ranked ninth in the world and fourth in North America.
“We have outstanding students,” Frank said. “That’s why we do so well.”
The program has undergone significant changes, which has helped lift its international rank from 30th to ninth during the past five years. Although UBC’s education faculty continues training teachers licensed by the province, there’s a much greater emphasis on instructing educators who work outside the kindergarten to Grade 12 system.
“You can imagine museums are pretty important learning sites,” Frank said. “Science World is a pretty important learning site. The aquarium is a pretty important learning site.”
He recalled holding an event at the Vancouver Art Gallery to discover who would be willing to offer placements to UBC faculty of education students. He expected eight to 10 organizations to send representatives.
“Eighty-eight showed up saying, ‘We would love to take your students,’ “ Frank said.
All teacher candidates in the UBC faculty of education do an in-school practicum, which is a requirement to be a licensed teacher. They do a second practicum at a learning site other than a school. This could involve a stint in another country.
“We think this is an exciting feature of our program,” Frank said.
Advancements in neuroscience are having a profound impact on education as more is understood about how people learn. According to Frank, they're also having a significant impact on methods of assessment, which must also take into account different cultural backgrounds, including those of indigenous communities.
He said that just as medical professionals have discovered that social determinants can affect people's health, educational experts are recognizing the benefits of an interdisciplinary approach to learning.
"Faculty would work with people in health, with people in medicine," Frank said. "I have one of the leading international scholars here in autism."
There are 400 doctoral students and another 1,400 master’s students enrolled in 23 different programs, including a fully online master’s of education in technology. The faculty of education also offers master’s and PhD programs in counselling psychology, which are required for those wishing to become registered psychologists in B.C.
Frank expressed pride in his faculty’s indigenous teacher education program, which has sites in Bella Bella and Lillooet and will soon open another one in Williams Lake. At spring convocation, there were seven aboriginal doctoral students.
In addition, he pointed out that UBC is the only Canadian postsecondary institution accredited for educating international baccalaureate (IB) teachers.
“Students here who do the IB concentration graduate with the B.Ed, but they also graduate with a certificate which allows them to teach in any IB program or school in the globe,” Frank said. “UBC itself has more applications from students coming from IB schools than any other university in North America.”