Towards the end of “elitist” projects at school

The “elitist” programs reserved for the most successful students are increasingly being questioned in public schools. So a school service center in Quebec is launching a major project so that all its high school students have access to a specific project in sports, arts or science. A way to eliminate the inequalities between underprivileged and underprivileged students.

according to what The duty Learned, the Center de services scolaire des Chênes, in Drummondville, is taking major steps to end the “segregation” between students who do well and those who struggle. The aim is for all secondary schools to offer all their students special projects that can motivate young people. These profiles in, for example, hockey, music or computer science should no longer be a ‘privilege’ for students with the best grades, but an option that is accessible to all young people.

“We need to break the multi-speed school system, which creates inequalities for the benefit of the most privileged. We want to welcome all young people in secondary education on an equal footing”, sums up Lucien Maltais, General Director of the CSS des Chênes.

The service center is inspired by a report by the Supreme Education Council, which concluded in 2016 that Quebec’s school system is one of the most unequal in the country. State-funded private schools and public schools with special projects attract the highest-performing high school students. Result: pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds or with difficulties are overrepresented in so-called ordinary classes.

“The result is a form of segregation that leads to a multi-level school system. The gap between the environments therefore widens: certain institutions or certain classes are perceived as less conducive to learning [les familles qui le peuvent les fuient] and working conditions are more difficult [les enseignants qui le peuvent les fuient également] », Indicates an internal document of the CSS des Chênes of November 2021.

In this service center, the success rate of young people in regular classes is between 5% and 28% lower than that of groups with special projects, emphasizes Lucien Maltais. However, research in the educational sciences concludes that co-education (classes made up of a diversity of students) draws out troubled young people without harming those who are more successful.

The CSS des Chênes aims to reduce the costs of participating in specific projects. These programs could even be free for young people from underprivileged families. Admission would be in accordance with the interests of the students as much as possible, and not just on the basis of their academic results or their athletic or artistic abilities.

On track

Stéphane Vigneault, spokesperson for the citizens’ movement L’École ensemble, is encouraged by this initiative of the CSS des Chênes. “It’s really in this direction that we want to go,” he said.

A recent open letter from 10 personalities, including sociologist Guy Rocher, supports the L’École ensemble movement in its quest for a more egalitarian public school, where all students have access to the same programs, regardless of their academic results or the thickness of their parents’. purses.

These education experts believe that Quebec should be inspired by the Finnish model, where private schools are 100% subsidized.

“For true justice, it is essential that special projects are free and available to all students. The selection tests create a fear of failure: children are told from the fifth year of primary school that they will miss their life if they are not accepted at a private school or in a particular project,” says Stéphane Vigneault.

The neighborhood school first

This initiative concerns “concentrations” or “profiles” in sports or art that are integrated into the school timetable. But these aren’t the more advanced “sports studies” or “art studies” programs, where students take their classes in the morning and exercise in the afternoon. These sports or art courses will continue to exist. The CSS des Chênes foresees that a form of selection will continue to exist for this type of program: candidates must be able to develop in a competitive sport while passing their courses, the service center DG recalls.

The project also aims to ensure priority access for students to their neighborhood school in order to facilitate school organization and reduce transport costs. The consultations of the CSS des Chênes confirm the principled support of all groups – parent committees, school staff and school principals – for the revision of the offer of secondary schools. The consultations are continuing, Lucien Maltais emphasizes. The revised service offering could go into effect in the fall of 2024.

An awkward change

A similar project, but on a smaller scale, raises concerns at the Center de services scolaire de la Rivière-du-Nord (CSSRDN), in the Laurentians. To cope with the significant population growth, the service center decided to encourage students to attend community schools.

Five so-called regional programs, which welcome students from all over the CSSRDN territory, are going local. These are concentrations in hockey, soccer, cheerleading, computer science, and music. High schools offering these concentrations should give priority to students from their neighborhood. If there are still places left, students from another neighborhood can be admitted, but parents will have to pay for their child’s transport, explains René Brisson, general manager of the service centre.

“We want all school administrators to survey parents and develop profiles. We want to encourage the participation of young people so that they find their passion, stay motivated and succeed,” he says.

Parents of students regret that by multiplying the profiles in schools, the level of sport will inevitably decrease. Because talent will be diluted between several schools. “Offering more sports to more students is very good. But children who participate in regional programs must be able to compete at a high level,” said André Daoust, who founded a Facebook group of parents who opposed the CSSRDN decision.

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