Boys dropping out is an important driver for Gregory Charles’ relevant reflection at school, first expressed in: The Press+ April 24th then Everyone is talking about it a week later. He advocates so much for it to be better designed for them that he goes so far as to propose the return of separate classes: the girls together, the boys on their side.
One way of doing things that isn’t convincing, education specialist Normand Baillargeon replied: Everyone is talking about it this Sunday, based on numerous investigations.
But then what, Charles insisted, do we do nothing and abandon the boys?
However, persistence at school has long raised eyebrows in Quebec, especially among boys. In 2003, the new Prime Minister Jean Charest raised this issue in his opening speech. And Jacques Parizeau was very concerned about that in 2008.
In 1996, researcher Michel Perron co-founded the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean Regional School Dropout Prevention Council, which is still active today. The approach has not changed: elected municipal officials and employers have a role to play in encouraging young people to continue attending school. Since then, the initiative has blossomed, leading to the creation of the Quebec Network for Educational Success (RQRE). Projects to prevent outages have multiplied.
However, it is striking to see how Quebec still stands out from the other provinces in terms of school attendance. The most recent data from Statistics Canada on the subject, the data that best allows interprovincial comparisons, is from the 2016 census, but it would be surprising if the data from the 2021 census – which is expected in November next year – show a trend reversal.
Note that Quebec has the highest percentage of men aged 25 to 34 (ie not from the pre-Silent Revolution generations!) who do not have a high school diploma. They represent 11.5% of this age group: more than one in 10 young men! Manitoba ranks second, with 8.9% of undergraduates.
Of the young women in Quebec, 6.2% have not completed high school, which is half the number for men. However, they rank third in Canada’s undergraduate list, barely ahead of the young women from Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
How can these poor results be explained? The other provinces use just as much co-education as they do here, and the teachers’ approach doesn’t differ much from one side of Canada to the other!
So this brings us back to the circumstances outside the school, primarily the weight of history.
Ontario chose compulsory education as early as 1871; British Columbia and Prince Edward Island soon followed, one in 1873, the other in 1877. The other provinces followed suit so well that by 1910 school was compulsory everywhere except Newfoundland, which would arrive there in 1942, and Quebec, which would come to the fore in 1943.
Not only was it very late, but you have to see the speeches that have been made against the “education”, both by the clergy, which weighs so heavily in Quebec, and by many elected officials, and which have survived. There has also remained a certain distrust of intellectuals in public space.
And then, all this is so recent: even today many students are the first in their families to attend a CEGEP or university. However, the influence of the family determines adherence to school.
This was reaffirmed early this year in a Léger survey commissioned by the RQRE to verify the magnitude of the pandemic among students aged 15 to 22. We learn that one in three young people has thought about dropping out of school at some point – an impressive number. What motivated them to continue? Their parents answered 57% of the youngsters. Follow a teacher, friend or adult close to them.
But 11% of the young people surveyed felt that no one around them has a positive influence to help them continue their studies, and half of the young people think that society is not doing enough to encourage them to study. There is something to think about outside the walls of schools.
Moreover, the boys manage to find a relatively paid job even without a secondary education diploma, which clearly distinguishes them from girls without a diploma. Specific, them will become truck drivers or cooks, or work in construction; she will be housekeepers, cashiers or waitresses. Statistics Canada points out that this list, well typed and with real wage differentials, has hardly changed since… 1990.
The economist Ruth Rose even showed that in Quebec in 2016, a man without a degree earned more on average than a woman who finished high school. And the average hourly wage of a high school graduate was higher than that of a female graduate.
So we can conclude that women have very sober reasons for wanting a degree, and men don’t have such a loss financially because they don’t have one! Far more than the mix of classes or the lack of enthusiasm of the teachers, it is likely that primarily this economic argument, coupled with the lack of family encouragement and a certain social indifference, is coloring the relationship with early school leavers.
The current need for labor will not improve things. It’s a vicious circle: we’re now asking for services at all times, so employers try to hire workers without being too picky, and undergraduates sneak in and prove you can pass without school…
That the long-term calculation is wrong, both for the individual and for the community, is irrelevant: Quebec is also characterized by its lightness when it comes to projecting itself into the future, heritage destroyed and lack of maintenance of roads, schools, hospitals…
Yes, it is a complete lack of social vision that hides under the stable!