The Great Losers

Our mediocre schools |

Two articles came out in quick succession on Monday and Tuesday to remind us of the extent to which Quebec’s schools breed mediocrity.

Posted at 5:00 am


Before we continue, a word for teachers and all school staff: the first paragraph of this column is not directed at you. You know how much I appreciate you. I’ve said it a thousand times.

That’s the system I’m aiming for. And the political.

Monday it is Marie-Eve Morasse who writes about the ministerial test of written French of the 5th secondary school (1), edition 2022. This test did not take place in 2020 and 2021, due to the pandemic.

The right word: “disaster”, because the success rates are falling. In some school service centers, almost half of the youth have failed. Between 2019 and 2022, all but six CSS saw a drop in pass rates.

We learn in this text that historically the ministerial examination accounted for 50% of the final grade…

But not in 2022.

In 2022, the departmental examination accounted for only 20%.

Translation: The system has (still) graduated many Quebecers who cannot write.

On Tuesday it was Louise Leduc who discovered this pearl (2): no 6th grade for children in difficulty. Students who have been struggling since Year 1 “skip” Year 6 and go straight to secondary school, in adjustment classes.

The scandal, of course, is the transversal incompetence of the system, which struggles to help schoolchildren as soon as they show difficulties, from their first steps in elementary school. Égide Royer has always denounced this scandal, he does it again in this article. Our Lada-shaped school system instead promotes its students from one level to the next: what is a life failure for these children becomes an artificial statistical success for the system.

A public school worthy of the name would have the resources to mobilize to provide real support to children in difficulty from the early years of elementary school.

This is almost never the case: they are instead sent to normal classes (so-called “normal”), where it is hoped that non-special needs teachers will be able to teach 15 regular students, 6 students with difficulties (hyperactivity, attention, dyslexia) and 3 students with behavioral problems.

The education reform more than 20 years ago promised to integrate disadvantaged students into mainstream classes with a lot of educational support.

What is “educational support”?

Examples: TES (special education technicians), special needs teachers, speech therapists and psychologists who would be in abundance in schools to support teachers.

It never happened. It never happened because every time the PQ and Liberal governments cut funding to the school boards – austerity, zero deficit, etc. – these cut off the staff from education funding.

In real life, this means that Julie, a 4th grade teacher in a “normal” class, alone manages six ADHD students and two undiagnosed students who all show signs of being on the autism spectrum.

And then there’s Kevin-Gilles, who often throws his snack around the class for no reason. He, we don’t really know what he has…

Result number 1 of this dysfunctional class: Neither the regular students nor the students in difficulty receive an optimal education.

Result number 2: After a few years, Julie quits exhausted and starts working in her sister-in-law’s vertical blinds shop.

Finding number 3: The students in Julie’s class find themselves at CEGEP eight years later, where the teachers find that they are having trouble finding the verb in a sentence (3)!

Result number 4: Some of the parents of students in Julie’s class, unsure, enroll their child in a private school, in a secondary school.

I started writing about school occasionally in 2015. I read the Monday and Tuesday texts published in La Presse and I see that nothing has changed in eight years.

Despite promises and reforms, the school system overseen by the Ministry of Education excels in two disciplines:

First, to obfuscate the statistics to hide their systemic flaws;

Second, lower the bar to award diplomas to as many teenagers as possible, even if it means graduating functionally illiterate.

This image – “graduating functional illiterates” – is not mine, it is that of a CEGEP teacher in May 2021, quoted in an article in Le Devoir (4) on the dismay of several teachers at the deficits in the French language of their incoming ones middle school students.

So sorry if the Department of Education says the graduation rate has gone from 70.4% (1998) to 82% (2014): I just don’t believe it. The whole system lowers the bar and arranges the notes with the guy known for years (5).

Lower the bar, arrange the notes? I recently received a message from a CEGEP teacher reminding me that she cannot deduct more than 10 percentage points for French errors.

What is there in reality?

That makes 18 out of 28 students who recently lost all of those 10 percentage points, at a rate of 0.5 points per mistake, 20 mistakes. We are talking about a text of 500 words, one and a half pages. After 20 mistakes we stop punishing them.

There are sentences like the one I was able to read last year, a sentence written by someone enrolled in CEGEP: “Now we can even see many series and films with at least one person of ethnic origin. »

Seventeen words, five basic mistakes (which shouldn’t be complicated even for someone who has finished secondary school 5) and one meaningless formula (a person of ethnicity).

Our mediocre schools


Bernard Drainville, Minister of Education

Hi Bernard, I assume your officials included this column in your press review…

Yes, allow me to just call you “Bernard”, dear Bernard Drainville, since we have known each other for so long through the media.

Congratulations on your appointment to the Ministry of Education. But be careful, they will stuff you like they stuffed all your predecessors with bullshit.

I know, I know they’ll tell you I’m exaggerating They will tell you that everything is fine, Minister!

But I will give you a hint of the mediocrity of your ministry, dear Bernard. It’s a phrase from Louise Leduc’s text about troubled students being catapulted straight from 5th grade into lower secondary school: It’s impossible to quantify the number of students in Quebec who are exempt from completing their 6th grade to visit. The Ministry of Education informed us that they could not send us any data on this topic…

You see, Bernard: no data, no problems.

And if there is data, then we invent it. We put a nice wig on them, we apply a filter like on Instagram and there the data, Bernard, is not otherwise visible.