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The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal

Jean-François Roberge discusses the issues of school retention in the context of the pandemic

On February 18, the Minister of Education, Jean-François Roberge, made a virtual appearance at the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal as part of the Hooked on School Days initiative.

Minister Roberge spoke about the difficulties associated with the pandemic, the government’s major investments in school infrastructure and the thinking on our schools of tomorrow.

Significant measures taken during the pandemic

The pandemic has greatly affected students and education staff. The social and psychological impacts in schools will continue to be felt in the months and years to come.

“We need to be aware that learning delays have occurred. We can see that our young people are suffering from stress and anxiety. We’re going to have to work over the long term to fix this.” – Jean-François Roberge

This is one of the reasons why the government wanted to keep schools open as long as possible.

“As a society, we’re one of the places that has kept its schools open the most. We’ve limited the damage, and this will pay off in the long run. Most importantly, it has confirmed the importance of having students in attendance in the classroom. The measures weren’t perfect, but I applaud the teachers, staff and administrators who were able to stay in touch with the students.”

Among the government’s preferred solutions when it was no longer possible to keep schools open were measures that could have a lasting impact.

“The school network reinvented itself during the pandemic. Distance learning is a good backup plan, we’ve quadrupled the number of computers available to students, and we multiplied partnerships with institutions like TELUQ. We’ve taken a giant leap forward in this area.”

Investments for the future of Quebec schools

School infrastructure, notably buildings, was often criticized for its state of disrepair and lack of ventilation at the height of the pandemic.

“We have invested $8.3 billion in our schools over the past three years to expand and renovate them. We’re building faster and to better standards than before.” – Martin Enault, Centech Chief Entrepreneur in residence

Minister Roberge also stressed the importance of preschool education and extracurricular programs to better support students throughout their schooling.

“We’ve made long-term investments for preschool. We want to be able to detect difficulties quickly and provide students with the tools they need for their academic career. We’ve also invested in the enjoyment of school, with an additional recess period and $120 million a year for extracurricular activities. Students can participate in sports and art, and develop a sense of belonging to their school.”

In implementing these measures, the government took into account Quebec’s lag in this area and did not hesitate to draw inspiration from what exists abroad.

“For preschool, we looked at what’s being done in Ontario and New York, for example. We drew inspiration from models that have proven successful.”

Vocational training at the heart of the government’s educational project

The vocational training project is one of the solutions put forward by the government to respond to the labour shortage threatening the Quebec economy. Minister Roberge pointed out that the success of such a policy also depends on the involvement of the business community.

“We need the business community to improve the recognition of vocational training. We need partners who accept this new way of studying and working.”

Citing the German model, Minister Roberge highlighted the government’s policy directions in this area, recalling the objectives for the future.

“We want to continue to stimulate training and improve pathways. We’ve already created short programs and invested heavily in them. This is a critical area of work in a labour shortage environment, and we will continue to put the necessary resources into it.”


The talk is available on the Chamber’s YouTube channel (in French only)
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