This text is part of the special booklet Private schools
They drag behind them some stubborn prejudices, which even the present pandemic has not succeeded in completely erasing: elitist, selective, pampered by governments, distant from the realities of students in difficulty, etc. And as if the list was not long enough, many openly envy their technological capabilities, forcefully deployed during the first confinement.
Nothing in this procession of criticism and prejudice is foreign to David Bowles, president of the Federation of Private Educational Institutions (FEEP) and director of Charles-Lemoyne College, on the South Shore of Montreal, an institution that welcomes nearly 3000 students.
“We don’t think we’re finer! “Jokes the one who was an English teacher before his arrival at Charles-Lemoyne, first as deputy principal in 2006, then general manager since 2011.” In the minds of people, a private school is a private enterprise seeking to make a profit. But almost all of the FEEP member schools are non-profit organizations, run by corporations with a board of directors on which parents sit. I am the manager, not the owner! “
And he is first of all a director who, like all the others, lives at the time of the start of the school year, with his share of surprises and unforeseen events, more numerous than usual … but a little less than that. last year. “There were more uncertainties,” recalls David Bowles, “since many decisions were made very quickly. It is not yet without difficulties and challenges, but everyone seems both better prepared… and calmer. “And this, even if no one dares to speak of a completely normal return to class, especially with the wearing of the compulsory mask, a constraint far removed from the rigors of the confinement of March 2020.
The question of catching up with school and maintaining learning is still an issue, constituting a source of concern for both parents and teachers. In no way catastrophic, the general portrait nevertheless presents some gray areas, by the admission of the president of the FEEP. “Young people have results comparable to those of previous years. In our network, where we see a difference is among students with learning and academic difficulties. The pandemic had a real impact on them; distance education is more difficult. And when you have an attention deficit, being in front of a screen, with all kinds of distractions around… ”
This will undoubtedly be a discovery for some, but among the 122,000 pupils who attend the 112 preschool and primary schools, the 140 secondary schools or the 12 specialized schools that are members of FEEP, 18% suffer from dyslexia, dysorthography, ADD with or without hyperactivity or an autism spectrum disorder. “We would like to welcome more,” says David Bowles, “but we do not have the necessary funding, unlike the same student in a public school who would be given an additional amount, from $ 10,000 to $ 15,000, to accompany him. This breaks somewhat with this impression of inaccessibility of private school for students with a little more atypical course.
In the minds of people, a private school is a private business seeking to make a profit.
Some parents are therefore happy to see their preconceived ideas shaken up, whether they have a child with a more difficult school career or whether they believe that their income is not sufficient. “Those who call for an end to government funding for private schools always evoke the situation in Ontario, but it costs $ 20,000 a year to go to a private school! Here, this withdrawal from the state would mean that many people in the middle class, or with lower incomes, would not have this possibility. In my school, some parents are taxi drivers or work in the service industry; these people go to great lengths to educate their children. Not to mention that we give almost $ 100,000 a year in scholarships to families who cannot afford tuition fees. “
And in this comeback where a few gray clouds hover, David Bowles says he is ready, as well as his team, to juggle technological tools in case of force majeure.
“Our teachers and school staff have made giant leaps. They saw the full potential of these tools, many of which are of high quality designed in Quebec, and which are used for both hospitalized and sick students at home… or in quarantine. For us, it is a very beautiful thing out of this unfortunate crisis. “