Staying in School: Québec in Solutions Mode (Part I)

Tutoring, educational summer camps and greater access to professionals to help students in difficulty: these are among the initiatives deployed so that the number of students dropping out (most of who are boys) doesn’t spike during the pandemic.

Here, then, is quick look at some of the programs that are hopefully making a difference.    

By Martine Letarte

30%. That’s the percentage of students behind on their studies right now.

“We have to do something about these students, and a strategy for them, one whose efficiency has been proven by research, is tutoring.”

This, from Égide Royer, a psychologist specializing in educational success, and a member of the Comité réussite scolaire (committee for school success) formed by education minister Jean-François Roberge to work on mitigating the effects of Covid-19 on students.

The Québec tutoring program, which began in February, includes 15,000 tutors helping out almost 165,000 primary and secondary students in the public school system.

“It works,” says Royer joyfully, “and the satisfaction rate in the school service centres is 95%.” The program, financed until June 2022, was increased for the back-to-school season and now includes tutoring for adult ed and professional training.

“The impact of tutoring is so big that we’re going to have to keep this going after 2022,” Royer suggests.

Fight Summer Backsliding

Beginning in the summer of 2020, tutoring was offered in the regional county municipality (MRC) of Montcalm, in Lanaudière. This is an underprivileged area where less than one in two boys earns a high school diploma after seven years of starting high school. The initiative was put into action by la Grappe educative, a program created by the Carrefour jeunesse-emploi de Montcalm (a youth employment service) to attack the crying need to do something about the area’s sky-high dropout rate.

They loaned computers to families. And children benefited from the services of a teacher who worked at a distance, individually, with each student, concentrating on their difficulties.

“We did a follow-up with participating families last year,” says Geneviève Rinfret, director-general of the Carrefour jeunesse-emploi de Montcalm. “The families were very satisfied, because the students that took advantage of tutoring over the summer were much more sure of themselves when school started up again at the end of August.”

That’s what is called contrer la glissade d’été, counter summer backsliding. Fighting the loss of acquired knowledge that happens among young students unstimulated intellectually over the summer months, and who have few opportunities over the holidays to use what they’ve learned. The education ministry wanted to stop this large-scale backslide when they set up their educational summer camps in the summer of 2021.

“We’re not talking about recuperation periods here,” underscores Égide Royer. “The idea is to give young people the opportunity to engage in certain playful activities that’ll permit them to maintain or continue to develop their skills, as they would if they were involved at a camp organized by their city or town. It could be reading a comic strip, or writing a short text to help prepare an activity.”

For children from disadvantaged families, continuing to read during the summer can be a real game changer, Royer says: “Usually, a child who comes back from summer vacation having not read at all is behind by a month or two compared to those who did read over the holidays. Since the classrooms were closed this year, that backslide could be even greater, and we have to do something to counter that.”

First seen in Reflet de Société Vol. 29 no. 6 août (August) 2021, pages 20 – 21.

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