Strike in the public sector | Delays that are difficult to clear

(Montreal and Quebec) The catch-up plan for young people who missed several days of school due to the strike will have to be “very muscular”, otherwise students risk being left behind, says a teacher from the School of Public Health at the University of Montreal, which studied the effects of the pandemic on academic results.

The Minister of Education, Bernard Drainville, must present this Tuesday morning, in Montreal, a “catch-up plan” to stem the effects of the prolonged school closures experienced in November and December. Students missed nearly five weeks of school.

Also director of the Observatory for the Education and Health of Children and researcher at CHU Sainte-Justine, Sylvana Côté says that this plan will have to be “very muscular” to support students in difficulty.


Sylvana Cote

This is not the time to skimp, because these children can drop out, even in primary school, because they are no longer able to keep up. If we don’t support them as early as possible in their educational trajectory, everyone will pay the price later.

Sylvana Côté, director of the Observatory for Children’s Education and Health

The works of Mme Côté showed that it is students in difficulty who pay the most for prolonged school closures. In 2021, the Observatory for Children’s Education and Health administered reading exams to 12,000 grade 4 students for research purposes.e year to see how school closures during the pandemic had affected their learning. These exams were canceled by Quebec that year.

School closures had no impact on the reading scores of the top 10% of students. Conversely, students who are in the lowest 10% lost 20 points. “If they had a rating of 50%, they would drop to 30%,” illustrates Mme Side.

Between 2019 and 2021, during the pandemic, the failure rate for this test increased from 17% to 27%. Results whose “magnitude” surprised the researcher.

Schools were certainly not closed for that long due to the strike, but Sylvana Côté fears the effects on children who, already weakened by the disruptions of the pandemic, “did not have time to recover.” “.

A plan that will have to be adapted to schools

Few details circulated Monday on the plan that Minister Drainville will present, but we repeated in Quebec that the key word is “flexibility”, while the accumulated delays are different from one school service center to another depending on the number school days missed due to the strike.

During the last week, meetings between the Ministry of Education and representatives of the education network – both parent committees, teachers, school service centers, school management and experts – were held.

It would have been proposed to give teachers up to two weeks to assess the needs in their classes.

The next report card could also be postponed somewhat, in the context where the minister confirmed last week the postponement of the ministerial exams, in order to give students more time to prepare for them.

To combat dropping out, the government could increase the financial assistance granted to organizations that help students with special needs, in addition to providing additional targeted resources in schools according to the needs that will be defined by teachers and students. school service centers.

The spring break planned for later this winter would not be compromised. Canceling it would require negotiations with the unions, whose members have still not ratified the agreements in principle concluded with the government. In Quebec, we hope that voluntary catch-up measures will be offered in each school during these few days in March.

The details will be clarified by Minister Drainville during his press briefing, an event awaited by both parents and teachers, who for their part had an educational day on Monday in order to prepare for the return of the Holidays without knowing the Ministry’s intentions for academic catch-up.

Tutoring, an effective measure

Sylvana Côté says it’s “pretty obvious” that some students will need more remediation than others.

“The catch-up measures that have been shown to be effective by science are mainly tutoring with very small ratios, even one to one. There are a set of conditions that must be respected for it to work well: it must be during school hours, not on weekends, not in the summer,” says Side.

Teachers are best placed to know who will need these measures, she continues.

As for the Ministry exams scheduled for June, Sylvana Côté says that it is essential that they be maintained, even if it means lowering their weighting.

“You have to have the right time. This will allow us to know what happened and where we need to invest next year,” she says.


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