The new program signals the end of the four-year bachelor’s degree currently offered at the school.
Instead, all undergraduate students will graduate with a master’s degree, teaching license and more of the classroom experience that administrators, students and alumni say is critical for success.
UNC senior Ashley Shaver, an elementary education major in the School of Education, said she is still learning about the program but thinks it could provide a competitive edge for new graduates.
“If it were offered for my age, if I could go back, I would love to have done it,” she said.
The School of Education’s stand-alone master’s program will remain, along with the education minor for undergraduate students and the UNC-BEST program. The BEST program allows science majors in the College of Arts and Sciences to earn a teaching license alongside their bachelor’s degree.
Though the new five-year program will mean students invest more time and money at the start of their careers, senior Brittanie Howard, a middle grades education major, said the program would save time and money in the long run.
“Most of us who are graduating would probably plan on or even have to go forward and get our master’s degree in education, so to be able to combine it with something we’re already doing — I definitely think that’ll be helpful,” she said.
Dean of the School of Education Bill McDiarmid said the fifth year will give the students time to focus on clinical practice in classrooms.
“You’ll have that grounding in the classroom so when you go into your own classroom, you’ll not only have the skills and knowledge that you need to succeed, you’ll have the confidence that you can do the job,” he said.
Howard said undergraduate education students already work in a classroom two hours per week their junior year and forty hours per week in the spring semester of senior year, but more classroom experience could help.
“The master’s program students do a lot more classroom time than the undergrad students do, so (the new program would be) like streamlining the undergraduate students into that classroom time you get as a graduate student,” she said.
Shaver said the benefits of classroom experience cannot be underestimated.
“You can read a textbook and hear from your professor day in and day out and you need that, but there’s nothing that can replace being an actual teacher interacting with her actual students,” she said.
Associate Dean Deborah Eaker-Rich said the plan has been approved by the faculty and the Provost but still must pass through official channels.
“It’s the checks and balances of the University,” she said. “It’s the administrative boards of the College of Arts and Sciences and the graduate school, those two administrative boards (need to approve it). Then it will go up to the general administration.”
Eaker-Rich and McDiarmid both said the administration has been supportive throughout the conception of the program and is expected to approve the plan without difficulty.
McDiarmid and Eaker-Rich said they expect to hear concerns about the financial burden of the extra year but plan to offer a part-time scheduling option and more graduate fellowships so that students can find financial support.
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