the Minister of Education Caroline Désir answered all your questions on Sudinfo.be (videos)

Registrations, COVID measures, new school calendar. Caroline Désir was live on sudinfo.be and on our Facebook page.

You can watch the video again below

> Why change the pace of school, disrupt the pace of children and complicate the lives of parents?

We absolutely do not want to disturb the children. On the contrary, we want to take much better account of the children’s natural rhythm and their needs. We started from the observation made by many experts in chronobiology, who for 30 years believe that the annual school rhythms are very poorly adapted and thought out from the start of the child’s needs. We sometimes have periods of 10 weeks of lessons, followed by a week off, then 5 weeks of lessons; and therefore it is very unbalanced throughout the year. I think all children have already found that their child is exhausted after a long 10 week learning period. These are difficult times for teachers too, to get the attention of their students. The starting point of the reform is therefore to balance these periods much better throughout the year with a systematic alternation of 7 weeks of learning followed by 2 weeks of rest and holidays. The other point of the reform is the 9-week summer vacation period, which is very long and which must also be occupied by finding internships, activities, etc. And we see that this long period when we are cut off from school and learning means that children regress a little and that at the start of the school year, certain skills and certain acquired skills must be reactivated, while a period of a little shorter would be a little more favorable. So we are proposing to reduce the summer vacation from 9 weeks to 7 weeks, and to redistribute these 2 weeks gained on All Saints’ Day and Carnival.

> This will be a problem for those who have shared guards …

That’s right, and that’s one of the things we’re working on right now. This reform will come into force in September 2022 so we still have a whole school year to properly prepare the conditions for the application of this reform. For alternate custody, parents generally have custody arrangements established in agreements, and all of this will have to be adapted. We made contact with avocados.be to establish standard agreements and to be able to have this ratified through mediation procedures in particular.

> This year, my children came back with their binders on June 21st when the lessons are supposed to end on June 30th. When the holidays start later, what will the teachers do during the two weeks?

When the school year ends for example on July 6 or 7, depending on the year, everything will be postponed. Class councils won’t be just before June 30 like today. There is no reason that there is a longer period of inactivity. And at the same time, we are going to reflect on these famous white days, because there are still many parents who complain. There is a minimum number of days to organize class councils in particular. But it is true that this is a period when we could organize many more activities, especially for teenagers who are sometimes a little left in nature.

> Won’t they be just as exhausted if they have to be put on an internship during the additional periods in the fall and spring?

If the school periods are replaced by 100% internships, there can be some form of fatigue but I think that we can also let the children rest at certain times. If the parents are not available, there are sometimes other childcare solutions in the family. The balance between rest time and activity time, we must try to preserve it because children also need from time to time to rest and recharge the batteries.

> My child failed his CE1D, and around me I hear many similar cases. Resit exams in September could have been a second chance for these tired students …

For now, the year-end results are falling and I’m getting quite a few messages to that effect. it has been a very complicated year for the students and for the teachers. I congratulate these students who clung somehow, sometimes with long weeks of distance learning. I know it was very difficult. I hope the results will live up to their expectations. But don’t forget that there are appeal procedures if you are not satisfied with a class council’s decision. This is a two-level appeal: you must first lodge an internal appeal, which will be examined within the school, and then an external appeal if the school confirms the decision of the class council and you do not disagree. We must be very careful because the deadlines are very short at the end of the year to mobilize these appeal procedures.

> Do you consider that you are up to the expectations of the teaching staff?

It was an extremely difficult year, I had to make decisions sometimes very quickly in a context that we all did not master very well; including experts who were unfamiliar with this virus at first. I had been in office for 6 months when the health crisis hit us. We had to invent everything. Not everything was perfect in the management of this crisis, but we tried all the time with my team to do our best. I know that school principals criticized me for my way of communicating, but sometimes we had to make decisions very quickly and communicate them very quickly. Afterwards, I will also be happy to come out of crisis management because we have a lot of projects to carry out within the framework of the reform for a pact of excellence, to improve our school system. So I hope I have developed the best relationship with the teachers, who are in the field day to day and without whom nothing can be done.

> Will there be a normal return to school? Will there be some distance?

I wish I could promise it. I don’t have crystal balls. There are significant advances, vaccination is progressing very well and the figures are very good. So we have good hopes that the return to school in September will be normal and that the next school year will no longer be disrupted. So we can expect a simpler school year. But I remain very careful. We hope to go back to school in code green but I will see the health experts in the month of August with the latest data.

> I have been a teacher for 20 years, I see a race to the bottom during the external evaluations which analyze the minimum level. Students find them too easy and no longer make efforts, good students are frustrated. Where is the excellence?

Our desire is absolutely not to race to the bottom. The preparation for these external evaluations which are the CE1D, the CEB, the CESS, is done upstream. It’s a year of preparation before the exams are taken. It is a working group with experts, teachers, which establishes these tests in the subjects concerned. The desire is not to reduce the level of requirements of our students. It’s always a bit subjective: some find it too hard, others too easy. What is important with these tests is to have at key moments in the students’ career, a photograph of their knowledge and skills, to make comparisons from one year to the next and to measure our teaching.


Posted on Friday, June 25, 2021 at 01:49 a.m.

During this live, we asked three questions live to the participants:

> Are you satisfied with the new school calendar? 68% no!

> Do you feel that your child has received the desired level of education this year? 66% no!

> Are you for or against the smartphone at school? There, it is for 37%!

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