Showdown between Minister Roberge and a group of education experts

The credibility of Quebec teacher training programs is put to the test: a battle opposes the Minister of Education, Jean-François Roberge, and a committee of experts who denounce political interference aimed at training teachers at full speed to address staffing shortages in schools.

Minister Roberge has approved in recent months four short training programs for future teachers without waiting for the opinion of a committee of experts — or even against the unfavorable opinion of this committee, in one of these cases. Mr. Roberge justified these decisions by the urgency to act in order to prevent classes from finding themselves without teachers.

In the wake of this, the minister ended the term of office last June of the chairman of the Accreditation Committee for Teacher Training Programs (CAPFE), Marc-André Éthier, professor at the Faculty of Education ‘Montreal university.

This showdown between the minister and a group of experts provoked heated debates in the teaching community, which feared that “insufficient” training would be given to future teachers. An eminent member of CAPFE, Professor Jean Bernatchez, of the University of Quebec at Rimouski (UQAR), has thus decided not to renew his mandate within the committee as of August 22.

According to what The duty learned, other members are considering leaving if they do not get a convincing explanation from Minister Roberge. The committee suspended its work in June due to the tense climate with the Minister of Education.

“We are a little stunned by this whole story”, summarizes Liliane Binggeli, vice-president of CAPFE. In a letter sent on August 4 to Minister Roberge, she denounces “an already too long list of decisions which undermine the credibility of CAPFE, which harm its work and which slow down university projects with regard to the development and improvement of of teacher training”.

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Mme Binggeli argues that the committee “carries out its work in a rigorous, conscientious, impartial manner and with the sole concern of ensuring that all accredited programs are of quality, which is an essential condition for the promotion of the teaching profession”.

For these reasons, the CAPFE had given in February 2021 an unfavorable opinion on the establishment of a qualifying master’s degree in preschool and primary education at the University of Montreal. The program was considered valid, but the CAPFE had identified shortcomings that needed to be corrected.

Program adjustment

Minister Roberge nevertheless authorized the 60-credit program — the equivalent of half of a four-year bachelor’s degree in education — citing the shortage of teachers.

We have a shortage of teachers here! We do not live in the theoretical world. In the real world, we need qualified teachers in our classrooms, and I look to our universities to qualify them. I trust our university network.

He also asked UdeM to adjust the program to respond to CAPFE’s concerns. “We said: fine, let’s recognize it as qualifying training by giving the University the obligation to make the necessary corrections,” argued Minister Roberge in an interview with The duty at the end of June.

“We have a shortage of teachers there! We do not live in the theoretical world. In the real world, we need qualified teachers in our classrooms, and I look to our universities to qualify them. I trust our university network. We want people who have at least a bachelor’s degree and who enroll in a graduate degree. It’s not just anything: we’re talking about a master’s degree in pedagogy. The vast majority of teachers will always go through the four-year baccalaureate, but multiplying the access routes without lowering the requirements, it seems to me that in times of shortage it is something that must be welcomed, “he said. he adds.

Similarly, the Minister of Education earlier this year approved the introduction of qualifying master’s degrees in teaching at TELUQ and the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQAT) without even waiting for the CAPFE.

“As long as what we do is not considered, if our critical and analytical view is not required, we will do something else elsewhere. It’s greatly demotivating for people who invest on a voluntary basis”, confides to the To have to Professor Jean Bernatchez, who resigned from CAPFE.

Credibility questioned

The deans of faculties of education are also concerned about the tensions surrounding the CAPFE, which “compromises the credibility of the process” of accreditation of teacher training programs, according to them. “It’s legal [d’ignorer les recommandations du CAPFE]but this is the first time a minister has done this since CAPFE was founded in 1992,” said Jean Bélanger, president of the Association of Deans, Deans and Directors, Directors for Study and Research in Education at the Quebec (ADEREQ).

“We are deeply concerned about the current situation, because the accreditation process is an important foundation for ensuring the quality of current and future programs as well as their credibility with both the community and the population,” he wrote in a letter dated of July 5 addressed to Minister Roberge. The deans are calling for a meeting with the minister to resolve the impasse.

Jean Bélanger considers the independent work of CAPFE “necessary”, even if the deans of education faculties sometimes find it “annoying” to make the corrections requested by the group of experts.

CAPFE vice-president Liliane Binggeli is calling for Marc-André Éthier to be reinstated as committee chair because of the “quality of his work” and his desire to continue. She is also seeking two legal opinions from the Minister of Education, particularly on the length of terms of office of members.

“The process of renewing the presidency of CAPFE is underway,” indicated Audrey Noiseux, press secretary to the Minister of Education.

Mr. Roberge said he could not renew the mandate of Mr. Éthier, who arrived at CAPFE in 2018, but the committee’s experts found the example of a former member, André Dolbec, who served seven years at CAPFE , including six years as President (two three-year terms).

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