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StFX president says prospective teachers being hurt by work-to-rule mandate

The president of StFX says Bachelor of Education students at his university and elsewhere in the province could see their chances of graduation shrink because of the teachers' job action.

Kent MacDonald says students in Nova Scotia teachers colleges need to complete at least 15 weeks of a practicum in order to graduate, but they aren't able to do so under the NSTU's work-to-rule mandate.

Five universities (Acadia University, Cape Breton University, Mount Saint Vincent University, StFX and Université Sainte-Anne) filed with the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia on Monday; they claim that under Section 31 of the Education Act, union members are obligated to supervise student teachers.

MacDonald tells The Hawk that StFX students will lose practicum time if the matter isn't resolved soon, while students at other schools are already losing out.

"We're not under the extreme pressure that Cape Breton University and Mount Saint Vincent University are in," he says. "Those practicums have already started, and they're losing days as we speak. Our just under 200 students, we have some time, but we need to have it resolved really quickly."

MacDonald, who serves as a spokesperson for the Association of Atlantic Universities, says the matter will be heard in court Feb. 10.

He says second-year students at StFX have already completed 14 of the necessary 15 weeks, and that practicums are not scheduled to continue until late March.

He says approximately 600 B. Ed. students are affected province-wide by the labour dispute.

MacDonald says prospective teachers could learn a great deal from being in Nova Scotia classrooms right now.

"We think it's reasonable for NSTU to allow these students in. We think it would be a wonderful learning experience for them to understand what's going on right now and better prepare them," he says, "and it takes nothing away from the bargaining position of either the union or government."

MacDonald says he and his counterparts have repeatedly tried to discuss the practicum issue with NSTU representatives, but they have not responded.

He says the universities sent a letter to the NSTU on Jan. 9 to discuss contingencies, but they have yet to get a response.

According to MacDonald, university officials could contact the province's minister of education in order to request a change the Education Act, so that the 15-week practicum requirement is lowered.

However, he says they do not want to put pressure on the minister to make such a change.

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