National teacher survey shows diversity as a key challenge in Canadian classrooms

January 31, 2012
Ottawa…. According to a recent national survey reporting on nearly 10,000 Canadian classes, one in every six students has an identified learning exceptionality. In addition, more than one in ten students in these classes have challenges understanding the school’s language of instruction. The survey, conducted by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) last October, drew responses from nearly 3,800 teachers, the largest number obtained in a CTF online survey to date.

“The fact that so many teachers responded to the survey is a clear indication that the relationship between class size and diversity is a major issue in our schools,” says CTF President Paul Taillefer. “When we talk about class size, we also need to be thinking about the number of students with a variety of individual learning needs in those classes. In order to enhance quality and equity in our public schools, these two issues need to be addressed together,” he explains.

The survey found that 81% of classes reported having at least one student with a formally identified exceptionality, and 28% of classes have five or more students with identified exceptionalities. In grades 4 and over, not only are class sizes generally larger but almost one in three classes contain five or more students with identified exceptionalities.

“Teachers have told us that while they strive to adapt their teaching to address individual student needs, their task is becoming increasingly onerous as very large classes still exist and classes are becoming more diverse,” adds Taillefer.

In a 2011 CTF research report entitled The Teacher Voice on Teaching and Learning, teachers identified the need to address class size and diversity as critical.  They also indicated the provision of the necessary supports and services in the classroom to help students with special educational needs as yet another major priority.

More details on the recent online teacher survey will be released in the CTF Perspectives magazine on Feb. 8, 2012.

The term “exceptionality” is used to define students formally identified as having behavioral problems or mental or physical disabilities, as well as other special needs students including gifted students.  The survey is a compilation of responses from 3,777 teachers from across Canada, including 3,023 who work in English schools (including immersion) and 754 in French schools in minority settings.

CTF is the only organization that speaks nationally on behalf of the Canadian teaching profession. An alliance of 15 Member organizations and one Affiliate Member representing nearly 200,000 teachers across the country, CTF is also a member of the international body of teachers, Education International.

Comments: CTF President Paul Taillefer
Information: Bob McGahey, Acting Director, Research and Information
Contact:  Francine Filion, Director of Communications, 613-688-4314