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School perseverance in times of pandemic: a priority issue

An open letter from the President of the Federation of Private Educational Institutions (FÉEP) concerning the plan for returning students to class. “The government will soon present a plan for the return to class of students. We are aware that this will not be a return to normal and that it is quite possible that a certain number of students will not show up for class, for reasons related to their health or that of those around them. "
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The government will soon present a plan for the return to class of students. We are aware that this will not be a return to normal and that it is quite possible that a certain number of students will not show up for class, for reasons related to their health or that of those around them.

In recent weeks, private schools in Quebec have been able to experience distance education, as has been the case in other school networks in different countries and other Canadian provinces. We were able to draw some observations that we wish to share to ensure a positive continuity in the education of our children for the weeks and possibly the months to come. We consider that education is an essential service in our society and that it is essential to find means of ensuring its continuity, even when it has to be done at a distance.

First of all, we observed that the key to the success of distance learning, beyond the availability of technological resources, is the maintenance of the teacher-student relationship. This relationship is still the cornerstone of student success in preschool, elementary and secondary school and must continue to be a priority, especially in a distance education context. It is essential that teachers are in direct contact with their own students, that they teach the essential contents and that they offer work in order not only to consolidate and continue their learning, but also to gather traces to evaluate. if the students are on the right track.

In addition, we must avoid making education optional, while being understanding and flexible towards students who, for all kinds of reasons, will not be able to do everything that is asked of them. First of all, making education optional is a source of demotivation for children and families which makes the success of distance education difficult. In addition, it sends the wrong signal about the importance of school attendance, whether students are on site at school or at home. In times of pandemic, we must always continue to encourage school perseverance.

Finally, special attention must be paid to all vulnerable students with academic difficulties. Even in normal times, these students need individualized support to actualize their potential and lead them towards educational success. In a distance learning situation, we must take advantage of special education technicians, remedial teachers and all our professionals to continue this support through frequent contacts and virtual meetings.

Regardless of the scenarios that will be chosen for the return to school, all the players in the education sector, directors, teachers, professionals and support staff, must mobilize to quickly build a new model of school organization. If the return is gradual, we must continue to support and provide education to the students who will stay at home. It is certain that in certain circles, access to technological equipment is difficult for families. This is no reason to give up teaching students at home; instead, everything must be done to provide access to these families on a priority basis.

Education is a right and an essential service. In this period of crisis, the world of education must mobilize more than ever to support the academic perseverance of young Quebecers and provide them with the necessary support and benevolent supervision. We must be creative and proactive in order to counter dropping out of school, and to prevent educational success and school perseverance from becoming collateral victims of this crisis.

We offer our full collaboration to all those involved in education for the success of young Quebecers. We are convinced that we can all learn from each other, no matter whether we come from the public or private network. If the experience we have been living since the start of the crisis with distance education can be used for everyone, we will be happy.

David Bowles, President
Federation of Private Educational Institutions (FÉEP)

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