Back-to-school: there are more than just COVID problems!

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Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier


Pontiac Perspective by Peter Gauthier

The new school year is about to begin. After a year where class attendance was replaced in part by distance education, the anticipation of returning to a more normal schedule is encouraging. However, our educational system has some problems carried over from years of provincial underfunding and neglect. For students taking classes in English, the proposed Bill 96 contains clauses that could affect their future education. According to this bill, English language education beyond high school will be capped in terms of numbers of Francophone students allowed to attend english CEGEPs and universities. In Western Quebec, this means an increasing number of students will be completing their education in Ontario. Algonquin College, the University of Ottawa and Carleton and other higher education facilities in Ontario are open to students from Western Quebec, but there are consequences. If one must go to Ontario for
education and employment, why not live in Ontario? With our best educated youth attracted to live outside Quebec, what happens to the population and economy of our region? The results are felt by all language groups of our region.
For primary and high schools, there are several issues being carried into the next generation of students. Among these is class size, which the pandemic highlighted. Classes should not exceed fifteen students, with ten to twelve as the ideal size. The large class size issue is made more obvious by the absence of proper ventilation in our schools.
Perhaps the most important of all is the end result – graduation from high school. Canada is one of the world’s most highly educated nations; 94% of working adults over the age of 25 have completed high school. However, in Quebec, the number is only 84%, the lowest of all the provinces. Surely some improvement is called for. This low number is not due to lack of ability of the students, but rather, a policy of neglect on the
part of the government of Quebec.
To add to the problems, there are the Red Seals requirements for trades certification.  The federal government introduced this program to ensure proper trades certification for all of Canada. Currently, some
seventy trades are eligible for Canada-wide certification, but education is a provincial matter and provinces must sign on to the programs. However, Quebec wants to make its own standards, so only a very few trades recognized in Quebec are eligible for Red Seals certification. Most notable is auto mechanics. Graduates of this training in Quebec are not qualified to work in any other province.
So, for students returning to school, may your education be meaningful and memorable, but be aware
of some of the issues our educational system is facing.