What's in store for 2023: The education network holds its breath

What does 2023 have in store for us in education? With the arrival of Bernard Drainville at the head of the Ministry of Education, many are holding their breath, impatient to know what solutions will be put in place to patch up the school network when education is supposed to be "the priority of priorities" of the Legault government.

What's in store for 2023: The education network holds its breath

What does 2023 have in store for us in education? With the arrival of Bernard Drainville at the head of the Ministry of Education, many are holding their breath, impatient to know what solutions will be put in place to patch up the school network when education is supposed to be "the priority of priorities" of the Legault government.

Despite the sums invested in recent years, more than half of the schools are still in poor condition. A record number even had to be demolished since these buildings were in too bad shape to be renovated. During the election campaign, the Legault government promised to inject $2 billion more than planned to renovate buildings, for a total of $9 billion. It remains to be seen whether the labor shortage will slow down construction sites. The remedial work surrounding the presence of lead in water has not been completed in all schools, while concerns persist about air quality. C02 readers have been installed in all classes, but the solution still relies mainly on opening the windows, deplore the teachers' unions.

Throughout the fall, the shortage of school staff made the headlines. Hundreds of teaching, professional and support staff positions are still vacant, which has very concrete impacts on the services offered to students. Pressed from all sides, Minister Drainville has already indicated that this is his “biggest professional challenge”. School executives hope that Quebec gives the green light to a shorter training to become a teacher, while universities refuse to go ahead with training at a discount. School principals hope for their part more flexibility on their part to allow future teachers to work in schools during their university training.

The collective agreements expire this spring in the school network and expectations are high. To counter the shortage, the unions are demanding wage increases, but also better working conditions. The teachers are asking in particular for a reduction in the number of students in the most difficult groups to lighten their workload. Pressure tactics could be set in motion by the end of the school year, depending on the progress of discussions at the bargaining table.

The learning delays caused by the pandemic are very real and, in schools, many denounce the lack of services to help students in difficulty. Many parents are forced to turn to the private sector, at great expense, to give their child a helping hand. During the election campaign, the Legault government promised to improve the tutoring program in schools and to create a virtual platform that will allow students to obtain services remotely, regardless of where they live. Meanwhile, a reform of funding for services for exceptional students is slowly getting under way, which is not unanimous, however.

The Minister of Education, Bernard Drainville, quickly indicated on his arrival at the National Assembly that he had no intention of attacking the three-speed school. However, the inequalities created by private schools, the special selective programs in public schools and regular classes have been denounced loud and clear for several years now by actors in the education sector and civil society. Minister Drainville, for his part, indicated that he wanted to increase the offer of specific programs in sports, arts or sciences, for example. It remains to be seen whether these programs will remain reserved for students with the best grades.

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