Elections: the main themes | Make education our “first priority” again

As the campaign draws to a close, the editorial team of The Press continues its series of analyzes on the major subjects that hold the attention of voters. Today, Philippe Mercure shines the spotlight on education. Good reading !

Posted at 5:00 a.m.

Call it a summit, states general, a great collective reflection, whatever. But the government that will take power in Quebec on October 4 will have to find a way to brainstorm ideas in education and put the subject back at the top of our priorities.

This clash of visions, one would have hoped for during the election campaign. In vain. Admittedly, party electoral platforms are not completely empty of educational proposals.

The most radical promise is certainly that of Québec solidaire and the Parti Québécois, who want to gradually abolish the funding of private schools.

This is a revolution that would upset the landscape of Quebec education and which must be debated. It’s amazing that it hasn’t raised more discussion.

The Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) promises a web platform to increase the service offer for students in difficulty. The Liberal Party and Québec solidaire want to make special educational projects (such as sports and studies) free in public schools. The Parti Québécois and the Conservative Party want to integrate 30 minutes of physical activity per day from CPE to secondary school. The latter also wants to allow parents to choose the school of their children and promises to create special classes for high-level students.

In short, there are things on the table. But we have a little the impression that in front of a patient in intensive care, the parties are proposing healthy menus and yoga exercises. In short, that we don’t dare to tackle our real problems head-on.

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Under pressure from journalists, the leaders will no doubt utter vibrant words between now and the election in order to save the day, especially during the last debate on Thursday evening.

But it is clear that the theme of education did not “take hold” during the campaign. It arouses neither passions nor debates. It is unclear whether the ballot box issue will be the economy, the environment, health care or immigration. But we know one thing: it will not be education.

Given the state of our network, this is as surprising as it is unfortunate.

When you buy a car, you expect it to have four wheels and a steering wheel. Of course. It’s the bare minimum.

For a student, the bare minimum acceptable is based on two things:

– a competent teacher in front of him;

– a school whose roof does not leak, whose windows can be opened and whose walls are not infested with mould.

We are not even able to offer this minimum to all students in the province.

At the start of the school year, there were 700 teachers missing from our classes. And 59% of our schools are in “bad” or “very bad” condition, according to the Quebec Infrastructure Plan. It is simply unacceptable.

All the parties, with the exception of the Conservative Party, have quantified the additional sums they want to invest in school infrastructure. This is obviously to be welcomed.

The shortage of teachers is a more complex obstacle. Studies have shown that 40% of teachers will leave the network by 20301. It’s in just over seven years! This is without counting educators in daycare, speech therapists, bus drivers that we are also tearing up.

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These issues are glaring, and they must be addressed. But there is a real danger that these pressing issues overshadow other, less visible but equally fundamental ones.

Among those :

– Why do barely 56% of Quebec boys reach CEGEP, compared to 75% of girls?

– Do we want to continue to have the education system in Quebec operate at three speeds – public, public with special vocations, private?

– How is it that more than a quarter of our students are coded as “handicapped or with social maladjustments or learning difficulties” and how can we intervene with them?

– How to bridge the gap that has grown during the pandemic between strong and weak students?

– Why is our high school graduation rate still the lowest in all of Canada?

Obtaining answers to these questions is important for training the workers of tomorrow, who will need to be increasingly better qualified. But it’s also important for giving Quebecers the tools they need to understand the world around them, to avoid the pitfalls of misinformation, to participate in society.

Education is infinitely more than a bridge to a paycheck.

During the previous election, François Legault had made education his “first priority”. The CAQ had managed to create a great momentum at the start of its mandate, which unfortunately broke with the pandemic.

This momentum needs to be revived. Today, we hear Mr. Legault talk about the importance of closing the wealth gap with Ontario. We would like to see the next Prime Minister maintain the same obsession with our graduation rates.

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