The new educational program for 4-year-old and 5-year-old kindergartens, which should be implemented in schools from next fall, is the subject of fierce contestation. Depending on what The duty has learned, education science departments from at least four universities are opposed to a shift decreed by Quebec providing to teach the alphabet to toddlers from preschool.
The teaching of letters in kindergarten, decreed by the Minister of Education after extensive consultation, divides members of the profession. This is a change of course from the traditional mission of preschool, which aims at the “global development” of children through play. It is considered essential to avoid the “race for performance” of other levels of education. ‘education.
At the office of the Minister of Education, Jean-François Roberge, it is argued that the new kindergarten program maintains learning through play, respecting the rhythm of the little ones. However, it aims to detect from an early age children at risk of developing learning problems, as advocated by the most recent research in education.
“We must act when we know that half of Quebec adults are considered to be functional illiterates,” summarizes a government source.
The trend towards dropping out of school is also considered worrying: barely 64% of students in the public network graduate from high school within the five-year period. In some regions, nearly one in two boys still have no diploma seven years after entering high school.
This debate on the teaching of letters in kindergarten arouses passions within the faculties of education. Departments from four institutions (Université de Montréal, Université du Québec à Montréal, Université du Québec en Outaouais and Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières) have thus voted on resolutions denouncing the new preschool program, adopted according to them without taking into account multiple scientific perspectives on toddler development.
“The final version of the cycle program for preschool education 4-5 years old must, in accordance with our mission in the world of education, be representative of a real work of concertation, of a taking into account nuanced and complete data from scientific research and the needs of children ”, indicates a resolution of the Department of Educational Sciences of UQO adopted by majority last week, February 26, 2021.
The resolution deplores “the imposition of this predictive prevention model [qui] strongly calls into question the academic freedom of the many professors, researchers and trainers of future teachers who will be responsible for presenting this program ”.
At UdeM, the didactics department, as well as that of educational psychology and andragogy, unanimously voted for resolutions denouncing the lack of transparency in the process put in place to revise the program. The teaching of letters was imposed in the last line, “without taking into account the opinion of experts and actors in the field”, indicate the resolutions.
Jean-François Del Torchio, spokesperson for Minister Jean-François Roberge, underlines that the revised preschool program is the subject of a consensus in the education community – in the absence of unanimity. The two large teachers ‘unions are in favor of the new program, as are the professional orders or associations of remedial teachers, psychologists, psychoeducators and speech therapists, federations of parents’ committees and groups fighting against disorders. learning.
The minister’s office stresses that opponents of the reform of the kindergarten program are clearly in the minority within the education community. The resolutions denouncing the new program came from 4 of the 12 Quebec universities offering programs in the sciences of education.
Opposition to the revised program is federated by the Quebec Preschool Education Association (AEPQ). This group claims to represent 2,500 members “engaged and interested in preschool education in Quebec”.
Depending on what The duty has learned, the president of the AEPQ, Maryse Rondeau, had to apologize publicly to the president of the monitoring committee for the implementation of the preschool education cycle (CSICEP), Monique Brodeur, former dean of the Faculty of education sciences from UQAM. The latter sent a formal notice to the AEPQ on December 20, 2020, demanding retractions regarding allegations made in a letter to the Prime Minister, Francois Legault, and Minister Jean-François Roberge.
The apology, posted on the AEPQ website, states that it is wrong to claim that Monique Brodeur “unilaterally changed” the preschool program as chair of the review committee. The president of the AEPQ also admits having “unjustly attacked” Mr.me Brodeur by alleging a conflict of interest related to the production of school materials for 20 years by the professor, as part of her research on academic success. In the formal notice sent to the AEPQ, she specifies that she has never benefited from the production of this educational material.
To the rhythm of the little ones
Joined by The duty, Monique Brodeur defended the work of her committee, which provided a synthesis of the most recent knowledge in preschool education, according to her.
Monique Brodeur is convinced that teaching letters in kindergarten is completely compatible with the rhythm-friendly development of children. “Knowing the names and sounds of letters is a fundamental ingredient [de l’enseignement préscolaire]. It’s like baking a cake with flour and eggs, ”she says.
The goal is to detect learning or behavioral difficulties from kindergarten, to quickly support the children with the help of specialists, she explains. Why ? Because behavioral or reading difficulties in toddlers are the two biggest indicators of future dropping out of school, specifies Mme Brodeur.