UTeach merits three hours

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Teaching is a tough love. The profession’s low pay and lack of esteem in society deters many bright and interested individuals from joining it. With that in mind, in 1997, UT launched UTeach, a teacher preparation program for students in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. UTeach allows students from various majors to obtain a teaching certificate upon graduation and provides students with scholarship opportunities and strong networking relationships.

But UTS 101 (in the College of Natural Sciences) and UTL 101 (in the College of Liberal Arts), the first sequence classes for the UTeach program, are worth only one meager credit hour per semester. That fact turns many students away from joining UTeach. Those who have never taken one of these classes may think that this lack of credit is reasonable for an introductory course, but UTeach courses teach far more than just classroom basics.

UTS 101 and UTL 101 incorporate in-class teaching experiences, requiring students to prepare lesson plans and teach students in schools around Austin, with an emphasis on hands-on instruction and classroom participation. I highly applaud this approach, but I also wonder if it is worth the students’ time. Creating lesson plans and teaching at local schools demands far more time and effort than what already busy students are willing to give for only one credit hour.

Carlos Bowles, the program coordinator for UTeach Liberal Arts, says the administration’s decision to assign one credit hour to these courses hinges on the total allocations of credit hours for special development programs, as regulated by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Given those constraints and given that courses in the later sequence of the program are more closely related to the teaching profession, Bowles believes that assigning one credit hour to the UTeach program’s introductory courses is an incentive for students who are unsure whether they are really interested in teaching to join the program. This allows them to discover their level of interest in teaching without significant risk to their GPA.

However,  students in UTS 101 and UTL 101  face challenges that real teachers encounter every day, although they are assisted by their teaching partners and teaching assistants. As such, they should be rewarded with at least one extra credit hour for their efforts and for their willingness to give it a try. Giving more credit hours for the introductory courses will  attract more interested students to the program.

Bowles also mentions that adding an extra credit hour to introductory courses will increase students’ tuition cost, and therefore, will not make the program more appealing for students to enroll. But full-time students who are taking 12 hours or more will not have to pay extra because of UT’s flat rate tuition above 12 hours. So why not add just one more credit hour for the amount of effort and commitment of the students who take the courses in question?

UTeach has come very far since its establishment in 1997 and has inspired many other institutions across the country to take similar initiatives. If UTeach rewards its students a bit more generously, it will attract more students, produce more passionate teachers and make university students — who will soon sending their own kids to school — more appreciative of the job teachers do and the service they provide.

Mohd Ridzuan is an economics sophomore from Malaysia.