School Dropout Rates: Are Boys Paying the Price for the Pandemic? (Part II)

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Québec’s student dropout rates, particularly those of boys, have been a worry for a long time. With the pandemic – which forced students to learn from home – the situation could easily have turned catastrophic.

By Martine Letarte

Even though some students had to be closely followed up with, many involved in the world of education say that what had to be done to avoid a total shipwreck on the boys’ school dropout front has been successfully accomplished. But efforts still must be made to catch young students up, so that the most vulnerable don’t paying the price for Covid-19.

Regional Disparities

The consequences of Covid-19 may not be felt as severely in some parts of the province. Some schools and classes remained open longer than others. And the quality of an internet connection can affect learning from home. But even in normal times, graduation rates differ from region to region.      

That’s the analysis offered by CartoJeunes at the Cégep de Jonquière. CartoJeunes is a project put on by the Centre d’étude des conditions de vie et des besoins de la population (ÉCOBES), the  centre for the study of living conditions and the population’s needs.

There are even differences between regional county municipalities (MRCs) within regions.

Overall, the Nord-du-Québec comes off worst. This far north region represents 55% of Québec’s territory yet only holds 44,000 people. Nord-du-Québec has the lowest graduation rate in the province, at 30% for boys who began their high school careers in 2012.  In the Côte-Nord region (the north shore of the St. Lawrence), their boys’ graduation rate stands at 64.5%; in the Outaouais (the Gatineau region), it’s 68%.

Among the regions that graduate the highest numbers of boys are Laval (80%); Québec (City), les Laurentides (the Laurentians) and the Centre-du-Québec (Drummondville and surrounding area), all at 78%. These are followed closely by the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and Montréal regions, both at 77%.

Across the province as a whole, the graduation rate for boys stands at 75%, according to CartoJeunes.

In 2018, CartoJeunes published a study looking to understand what factors in a given area influence the perseverance and the success of young students. “For example,” says Michaël Gaudreault, the coordinator of Projet CartoJeunes, “places where there are a lot of single parent families, crowded housing, and adults who haven’t graduated, all these are factors linked to low graduation rates.”

He believes that these factors have weighed even more heavily during the Covid-19 era. “For a youth stuck in overcrowded lodging, where he’s trying to go to school from home, where the parent doesn’t put a lot of importance in education and is experiencing financial difficulties because of a job loss, it can be tough for that student to earn a diploma.”

First seen in Reflet de Société, Vol. 29, no. 6, août (August) 2021, pages 18-19

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