In the midst of a shortage, apprentice teachers are becoming rarer in Quebec this year

Despite the incentive measures put in place by the Legault government, the number of students registered in programs intended to train future teachers of primary and secondary schools in Quebec fell by more than 4% last year, noted The duty. Experts and opposition elected officials in the National Assembly are calling for in-depth reflection to make the profession more attractive.

For the current school year, some 1,100 fewer students than a year earlier have registered for a university program in educational sciences, show data from the Institut de la tourisme du Québec (ISQ) updated last month. This represents an annual drop of 4.13% in numbers in this vast field of study, a drop which reaches 6.25% for training in special education and special education, then 12.06% for the training of teachers in vocational education, in the secondary and college networks.

Analysis of ISQ data by The duty also shows that, for several university education programs, student numbers in fall 2023 are several percentage points lower than the average calculated since 2016. This drop is, for example, 6.42% for education specialized in primary and secondary education, and more than 16% for teacher training programs that offer courses giving access to a professional studies diploma (DEP).

“It’s a strong downward trend,” concludes Geneviève Sirois, professor of educational administration at TÉLUQ University and associate professor at the University of Quebec in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. “The problem currently in Quebec is that there is no plan to deal with the shortage of teachers,” continues the expert. However, “we must be concerned, because our children are currently being taught by several teachers who are not legally qualified”, the shortage having had the effect of reducing the school network’s requirements in terms of recruitment, she underlines.

The “failure” of scholarships Perspective

In 2021, the Legault government announced an investment of $1.7 billion over four years to establish the Perspective scholarships, intended for students from different backgrounds facing a labor shortage. In the education sector, however, “these scholarships have completely missed the target,” says Caroline Quesnel, president of the National Federation of Teachers of Quebec, who does not hesitate to describe this incentive measure as “ “failure”.

The government has also implemented short courses of 30 credits which have made it possible to limit the reduction in the number of students obtaining a teaching certificate each year. However, Professor Sirois raises the risk that teachers thus poorly trained will not have the knowledge required to transmit certain essential knowledge to their students, particularly in special education classes.

“It’s a temporary solution to a problem that is much more serious,” said Marc-Antoine Charette, a doctoral student at the University of Sherbrooke, where he is interested in the field of education. According to him, these accelerated training courses risk contributing to “the devaluation of the profession” of teaching, thereby making it less attractive in the long term. “It’s a vicious circle,” he warns.

The Liberal MP for Mont-Royal–Outremont, Michelle Setlakwe, says she is particularly concerned about the drop in the number of students wishing to teach the knowledge leading to a DEP. “At the professional level, these are professions which are often very important in the context of the labor shortage. These are professions that we cannot afford to escape,” she emphasizes.

A call for patience

Joined by The duty, the office of the Minister of Education, Bernard Drainville, calls for patience. “It is certain that we would prefer to see rapid improvements, but let us be clear, it is far too early to draw conclusions on the success or otherwise of the measures in place,” he said by email.

The latter emphasizes that there is no “magic solution” to the shortage of teachers in Quebec and that “it takes time to reverse a trend” like this.

There are fewer and fewer students who want to go into education, that’s what we see with your figures. But there are also some who drop out during studies and there are others who drop out once they are teachers, before having served five years.

The minister also says that the agreements in principle which were concluded between Quebec and the province’s teaching unions in February will make it possible to “make the profession attractive and increase the number of registrations” in programs next year. academics in teaching. “We firmly believe that the significant improvements made to working conditions will allow us to get there,” says the firm. A “campaign to promote the profession” will also see the light of day “in the coming months,” he adds.

However, the government must not be content with finding ways to get more students to take an interest in teaching training, replies solidarity MP Ruba Ghazal, it must also find ways to better retain the troops of the public network . “There are fewer and fewer students who want to go into education, that’s what we see with your figures. But there are also some who drop out during studies and there are others who drop out once they are teachers, before having done five years,” she emphasizes.

There is also a whole “wave of retirements” of teachers “which is underway”, which will increase the needs of the school network in the coming years, recalls Geneviève Sirois. In this context, Quebec must find ways to keep its teachers, believes the expert. Otherwise, “it’s like a bath without a stopper. We are constantly adding water, but the bath continues to drain,” she says.

To ensure better retention of teachers, the government must tackle the “three-tier education system”, which over the years has made the “concentration of students with difficulties” in the regular school network more complex, believes Ghazal. “If the government does not tackle three-tier schools and its inequalities within our education system, we will not be able to attract more teachers. »

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