On March 13, 2020, Quebec closed the doors of all its schools. For two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a real health, social, humanitarian, economic, cultural and even intellectual crisis. Unprecedented in modern history, one wonders if the many upheavals felt in educational environments were new or if they only exacerbated pre-existing vulnerabilities.
The Superior Council of Education (CSE) has looked into the matter and published one of the most comprehensive and interesting reports ever released by the organization. Without detour, the objective of the CSE with this publication is to avoid a return to an “idealized normality” and thus take advantage of the collective awareness to improve the education system for good.
“What was considered normal before the crisis had its share of challenges and problems that should not be accepted, let alone denied, in a discourse essentially oriented towards a return to an idealized normality. »
A crisis as a trigger for a positive transformation
The pandemic is still not over, but we are already beginning to learn lessons from this crisis in the school environment. We think of learning delays, the effects of social isolation and increased anxiety among young people.
More broadly, the CSE is also interested in this report in the impacts on the whole system, such as communication processes, the development of digital skills, personnel management, the use of distance learning, etc. The Council is of the opinion that not only the lessons learned during the pandemic could make it possible to avoid making the same mistakes, but also to positively transform the education system.
It is in this search for the truth that the CSE conducted consultations with many organizations representing the union environment, management, parents, students, professionals and the community environment. At the end of this process, the Council published an analysis of the issues raised during the crisis.
voluminous, the document reads in one go as it puts its finger on crucial challenges, often known for a long time, sometimes less. The CSE therefore makes recommendations that we can qualify as fair and inspiring.
The challenges of the system revealed
If you do not have enough time to read the report in its entirety, you should at least consult the table of “prior vulnerabilities of the education system that have affected its resilience capacity” (Table 2, p.80).
You will recognize recurring problems such as the shortage of staff, the heaviness of the teachers' task, the dilapidated state of the establishments or the insufficient use of professional judgment during evaluation. The crisis has also brought out less obvious elements such as the absence of guidelines for distance education, the great variability in the pedagogical tools used, inadequate emergency measures plans or poorly adapted collective agreements.
The Board recognizes in passing learnings that are there for good, such as the use of videoconferencing to facilitate collaboration, the establishment of a crisis unit, greater flexibility and better autonomy of the environments or the management of health measures or the importance of digital technology in education.
The report ends with a series of recommendations (Table 3, p.112) to be implemented immediately. Among these, the CSE proposes to improve the digital pedagogical training offer for teachers and parents, to establish a directory of good ideas that have emerged during the pandemic and to maintain virtual school services.
Towards a much better normality
Until we can assess the long-term effects of this crisis, it is important that the world of education can learn from it. Since science already predicts an increase in the number of pandemics and natural disasters, the Quebec school system must include resilience in its management processes. Since the school forms a living environment in its own right, it is no longer just a matter of success or dropping out of school, but also a question of well-being, mental health and quality of life. Far from wanting to take us back to our old reality, the Council invites us to create a new and much better normality, more egalitarian, fairer, more resilient, stronger.