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.
Social and Familial Context
Marie Chantal Bouchard, coordinator at the Maison des Jeunes du Grand Joliette, a youth centre, did her master’s thesis on why young people in the Lanaudière region dropped out or graduated. Single parent families constitute 30% of all families in the MRCs of Matawinie (Rawdon and north) and Les Moulins (Terrebonne and Mascouche), both in Lanaudière. The whole region was known for its high dropout rate not so long ago, but efforts were made to reverse this trend, with some success.
“In the Matawinie MRC, the graduation rate after seven years went from 54.5% in 2006 to 67.5% in 2015, and in Les Moulins, from 66% to 79%,” Bouchard says. “Most kids quit school because of constraints, like a parent who withdrew them from school, or because they were being bullied.”
That is in sync with a study published by Véronique Dupéré, a professor and researcher at the University of Montréal’s school of psychoeducation, and Éric Dion, a professor and researcher at UQAM’s department of education and specialized training. They found that around 40% of the young people they followed who ended up dropping out of school did so within three months of having experienced a stressful event. Three quarters of these stressors weren’t linked to their schoolwork, but to family and social life, or their health. “Certainly the pandemic hit a lot of families hard. Their risk factors increased, and kids’ motivation to stay in school took a hit,” says Bouchard.
Keep on Trying
At CartoJeunes, the Cégep de Jonquière project that charts dropout rates by region, they aren’t expecting to see huge changes when the next dropout numbers come out. “During Covid-19, standards weren’t maintained for students to move on to higher grades,” says Michaël Gaudreault, coordinator at CartoJeunes. “We still foresee that the lags piled up by some students during the pandemic will end up having a visible impact on dropout rates in about two years’ time.”
As for psychologist Égide Royer, who specializes in educational success, he thinks that school administrators, school boards and service centres have to be particularly alert this fall. “You have to check who was at school last year and who didn’t come back, even if they didn’t get their diploma. You have to be extremely attentive towards those kids who pose a risk of dropping out, and see what can be done to support them, to get them to persevere.”