The North Star


Bill 23 in Quebec

An Education Reform Deaf to the Key Issues

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The start of the 2023 school year is likely to be a bumpy ride. Bill 23, tabled last spring in the Quebec National Assembly, has been widely denounced by teachers and their unions. Minister Bernard Drainville's reform continues the work begun by his predecessor, Jean-François Roberge, by centralizing powers at the ministry and removing autonomy from teachers and school teams. This new law seems to avoid tackling the issues that have been highlighted by the education sector.

The scope of the Minister's powers under the reform is immense. He could overrule decisions made by school service centres (CSS). He could also have direct access to all classrooms to identify "problematic" students and impose directives on their teachers. What Drainville presents as a way to give national direction to the education system looks more like a way to micromanage schools," denounces the CSQ union.

Teachers are the biggest losers with Bill 23. Rather than reducing their workload or class sizes, Bill 23 imposes more hours of in-service training. The purpose of this training would be decided by the Ministry rather than the teachers themselves.

The Fédération Autonome de l'Enseignement (FAE) denounced this measure in a press release. "By imposing this new training requirement, the government is feeding into the idea that the problems of the school system lie largely on the backs of teachers, and that they are not properly trained to carry out their duties. Yet it's common knowledge that socio-economic background is the most important determinant of academic success and graduation."

With this reform, the Minister also intends to greatly limit the powers of the Conseil Supérieur de l'Éducation, an independent institution charged with advising the Ministry on measures to be taken in education. It would be replaced in part by the government-led Institut national d'excellence en éducation.

The Confédération des Syndicats Nationaux (CSN) questions the need for such an institute. "The new national institute of excellence in education would not meet a real need when organizations already exist for research and innovation in education. Segmenting the analysis would only encourage a silo vision, harmful to education in general."

The CSN, CSQ and FAE all agree that the reform does not address any of the current issues in education. There is no mention of class composition, teacher shortages, public funding of private schools or post-pandemic school backlogs.

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