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Canada From the comments: Increases in teacher absenteeism leaves readers asking if AI should replace some instructors

Today, readers are responding to news that teacher absenteeism is on the rise in Ontario and is leading to the hiring of non-certified emergency replacements to supervise classrooms. School boards attribute the staffing issues to university training programs being extended to two years from one year, and to changes in sick-leave rules. Teachers can no longer bank sick days until retirement, which some believe has resulted in more sick days being used during the year.

Caroline Alphonso reports than an increase in teacher absenteeism and a shortage of supply teachers in Ontario has forced several school districts to take an unusual approach to filling the gap: They’ve hired non-certified emergency replacements to supervise classrooms.

Nancy Louie/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Dianne440:

Teachers always preferred to be in the classroom because substitutes may keep kids busy but not advance progress through the curriculum - hence more work for the teacher when they returned to work. This meant they often went to school when they were unwell. Today emphasis is on not spreading germs to others.

SMcCafferty:

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Banking sick days, another example of the absurd contract conditions which are allowed to be established with the Teachers’ Union. Hopefully the new government will rein in the teacher's union and the poor taxpayers of the province will not continue to be held to ransom by this group.

ThinkAboutIt42:

Teachers get ill more frequently because they are amongst 30 children who are sick more often, and their parents send them to school sick because the parents aren’t allowed to take time off when kids are ill. The school is the babysitter. There is also an enormous amount of stress every day in the classroom with the increased violence and behavioural issues. Every job in our society should be provided a reasonable number of sick days. Workers should not have to provide a note from the doctor until they’ve been away four or more days, as it fills the medical clinics up with unnecessary appointments. The employees must however notify their employer is reasonable time to cover their work with another. When will our universities and governments get it right regarding the number of places available for teacher training in this country? These cycles have existed for decades. The provinces should have the same standards so that a certified teacher in Canada can teach anywhere in Canada. Our country is too balkanized.

FakePM:

"Supply teacher" is a misnomer. "Day babysitter" is more apt, unless things have changed since I went to school. You don't need a teaching degree for a day replacement. More than a day, the kids need and deserve someone qualified.

Brown_R:

Teachers are no longer allowed to bank 20 sick days a year until retirement so now they are using all their sick days each year. Seriously? How discouraging that the profession has become so self serving and politicized thanks to the influence and power of the Teachers’ Union.

App_65946887:

There is very likely a connection between increased absenteeism and the increasing presence of violent incidents in the classroom.

Chad Chen:

Ontario is awash with professionals - physicians, nurses, teachers, etc. - who are so good at extracting money from the provincial government that taxpayers have to suffer more and more every year. Do I care if more supply teachers are being called on? No, I do not. Teaching elementary and high school is not brain surgery, and it's time lessons were standardized to the point where robots can do the job. Teachers always pretend that lessons plans and classroom diagnostics must be customized because " every student is unique", but it is not true.

Rick Munroe in response:

Wow. If you are parent you know full well that no two children, even twins, are the same. We are in serious trouble if there are others who share your view that education of children by robots/AI is a worthy goal.

Res ispa loquitor also in response:

I don't think robots are the answer, but pilot programs where children study math using computer programs that help them learn at their own pace might be worth a try. With good artificial intelligence, the program could vary the approach and pace of the instruction based on how the child learns, any diagnosed or detected learning disabilities and progress. The program could identify where the learning blocks are and reteach those sections. Mini-tests could be built in to test progress. They could be designed to be fun and interesting and draw on the experience as to what makes electronic games popular. Teachers would still be present and could assume the instruction where needed. Based on my experience as a parent, the current method for teaching math in Ontario is very poor and many teachers are not skilled at teaching it.

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