The duties of the minister of Education

Photo: Jacques Nadeau Le Devoir
The minister of Education, Sébastien Proulx, during his visit to the primary school Sainte-Louise-de-Marillac Montreal, in August last

The expectations are high. The minister Sébastien Proulx has promised to succeed where all his predecessors failed : to increase the success of students, from pre-school to end of secondary school. In less than a year of provincial elections, the education community account to spur the minister to fulfill his commitments.


It has created a lot of hope, the minister of Education, with its policy of “educational success” announced with great fanfare last June. This ambitious project aims in particular to increase the graduation rate to 85 % by 2030 — this rate is 74 %, at present, to improve the quality of the French, to reduce the glaring inequalities between the schools (public and private) that select the best students, and the public schools called the common…


A challenge : this is not for nothing that the seven ministers came to the Education sector over the past ten years. In the position for nearly two years, Sébastien Proulx, him, survived the unions ‘ criticism of the school network, deemed ruthless.


“I hear what you say “, he reiterates tirelessly with all the stakeholders in the area of education. His ability to listen and rarely say no — désarçonne critics, but the increase in expectations. Everyone is wondering if the honeymoon between the minister and the education community will continue in 2018.


“We are going to elections on October 1, 2018. Is the priority of the minister will be the success of the students or the success of the election campaign ? ” asks bluntly Josée Scalabrini, president of the Federation of trade unions de l’enseignement (FSE-CSQ), which represents more than 65,000 teachers.


In any case, after two years of ” fiscal discipline “, the government Couillard has found the money for the schools. The minister Proulx has funded the hiring of 1500 teachers or other professionals in primary and secondary schools. It has opened a series of classes of kindergarten 4 years of age in underprivileged areas. It has created 100 new reception classes and francization, added 60 minutes of sport a day in 480 schools and invested in literacy.


Nobody can oppose these ” reinvestments “, but the list of commitments of the minister is long. Much remains to be done to fulfill the promise of its policy of educational success.


A system with three speeds


Education unions believe that one of the great challenges of the minister Proulx is to reverse the trend towards a school system with three speeds. The phenomenon is well documented : the private schools and public schools with special projects, select the most outstanding students. The ordinary state schools end up with students with the greatest difficulties.


The higher Council of education (CSE) has sounded the alarm in an opinion percussion in the fall of 2016. “The result is a form of segregation, which leads to a system of schools at different speeds. The gap between the communities : some schools or some classes are considered to be less conducive to learning (families that can leak) and the working conditions are more difficult (teachers can also leak), ” says the document.


This imbalance causes a “crisis of confidence” that undermines public schools, says the CSE. Signs don’t lie. Thus, the percentage of students in public secondary schools enrolled in programs enriched (such as sports-studies program or the international) has risen from 14.4% in 2002-2003 to 17.2 % in 2012-2013.


The quebec education system is one of the most unequal in Canada, among other things, because of the important place of the private school — 21.5% of quebec students are in the private sector, compared to 7.8% for Canada as a whole. In high school, four students out of ten students attending private school in Montreal (39 %) and Quebec (42 %).


“The outcome of this system is that the regular classes were no longer anything but ordinary,” recalls Catherine Renaud, president of the Alliance des professeures et professeurs de Montréal.


“It is conducive to the integration of exceptional students in the regular classes, but not to this point : in certain classes of public schools, more than half of the students have disabilities or learning disabilities, or adaptation. “


The private stopped


The solution is simple : stop investing public funds in a private school, to require the private schools to accommodate more students in difficulty and to increase the funding of services to students in the public network, support the unions and other groups, such as the Movement of the school as a whole, which has seen the light of day in 2017.


The minister Sébastien Proulx recognizes the inequalities between public schools and ordinary ones, public or private, who select their students. But he prefers the technique of the carrot rather than the stick to restore fairness in the system.


“There is work to be done, said the minister Proulx in an interview with the Duty at the beginning of the school year last fall. There are in the regular class, the class that others have called ordinary, a class of less regular, in the sense that it brings together people from profiles the like, or with difficulty, because the others are elsewhere. And that, it is certain that it is a matter of concern. But it is necessary to ensure access to the most [many] programs as possible to as many people as possible. It is necessary to find ways to attach them, not to their chairs, but to ensure that they are motivated to stay there. “


The private school “does not make as much as she could,” said the minister Proulx. “The consideration of it, is that it must also offer him the means to do this. I have set up a pilot project in the budget rules of the past year. Sums were offered to the private institutions for projects of assistance to students with special needs. […] I have always called for greater complementarity between the two networks, saying to me each time that we will continue to respect the freedom of choice of parents. This is the reason why we made the choice to continue funding the private school as we do. “


Other nagging issues


You can expect this discussion to go forward here in the election in the fall. The minister Proulx will have to answer another question, to heart-wrenching : should they be held as scheduled in the school elections on November 4, 2018, a month after the provincial election ? The participation anemic in school elections (4.85% in 2014) is likely to suffer from this second visit to the polls in a month.


Another great decision in sight : is it necessary to make school mandatory until the age of 18 ? The minister thinks of it. The Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ), François Legault, ahead in the polls, argues that this blow bar is needed to curb the school drop-out. Fake good idea, say some : the system time already to retain pupils up to the age of 16 years.


All of these “challenges” in education are more pressing in the island of Montreal. The Commission scolaire de Montréal reiterates that it is not like the others : more than two-thirds of the students come from disadvantaged backgrounds, more than 50 % of them do not have French as a mother tongue and one pupil in four has special needs. It is here also that the schools have the largest deficit in maintenance.


“I hear what you say to me,” replied the minister Proulx, when asked about this by The Duty in the winter of 2017.

Retrospective and crystal ball


Supervision of the home school

Education for undocumented children

Recruitment of 1500 teachers and other professionals

Continued deployment of kindergarten 4 years

Acceleration of the funding of services to students in difficulty

Increase physical activity

Revision of the school tax

The challenges

Valuing the teaching profession

Clarify the school fees charged to parents

The school compulsory until the age of 18 ?

School elections in November ?

Plan for the teaching of digital

Housekeeping in the assessment of students

Combat illiteracy

Renovate aging schools

Ce text is part of our “Outlook” section.