Back to School 2021: Education at the Heart of Postpandemic Recovery

By Alain Tittley
special collaboration

In the context of a very special return to the classroom for students, parents and school staff, the challenges will be many. Éric Gingras, the new president of the Centrale des unions du Québec (CSQ) – which represents nearly 120,000 members working in education – is optimistic about the new school year.

Éric Gingras took office on June 30, when the start of the school year was already being orchestrated. After a career in teaching at the primary level with clients from disadvantaged and multi-ethnic backgrounds, this man of action and hands-on experience has developed over the years a solid expertise in negotiations and labor relations that has guided him among others until as president of the Champlain trade union, an association that represents teaching and support staff and occupies an important place in the ranks of the plant. A journey that has given him a unique perspective on the forces transforming society and their impact on the educational environment.

A shared vision
There is no doubt for the president of the CSQ that the start of the school year will bring some challenges. “After the year the youngsters have just been through, consolidating what they have learned will be a priority. We will have to be very present with them to help them overcome academic, social and emotional deficiencies. But the beauty of the education network is that teachers, professionals and support staff work together as a team in the classroom, in childcare and during extracurricular activities. Special efforts will have to be made to align everyone’s initiatives, especially in a context of labor market tightness, but our members are resilient and committed. †

An expected return to the classroom
As Éric Gingras explains, parents and students want to experience a school year without surprises. “A year in which we know when we are going to school, and where we know what will happen there. However, the back-to-school plan announced on August 11 confirms that this will not be the case this year. Even if the vaccination of 12 to 17-year-olds exceeds all expectations, we can assume that there will be a revival in cases of infection. With the fourth wave, the education network needs to be more well prepared than ever. Despite these uncertainties, the chairman of the CSQ remains confident. “I hope that the start of the 2021 school year will be positive. Our members are mobilized and roll up their sleeves so that great things happen in the school network. †

The challenge of understaffing
How do you ensure that education becomes the cornerstone of recovery from the pandemic? “Given the severe staff shortage in our network, it is clear that the Legault government will have to do more, says Éric Gingras. The education minister has said he wants to move forward with faster training, as has been done for beneficiary chaperones. We are not against it, but we do not want discount training. We currently have professionally trained employees who have all the necessary tools on the one hand, and unqualified personnel who, despite their good will, ask for guidance on the other. †

Meanwhile, Éric Gingras argues that we must value the school staff and provide working conditions that guarantee the support of the next generation. “These workers are a gold mine to be looked after, and the government must become an employer of choice. Education must be a priority in Quebec, and it will be my job, as chairman of the CSQ, to get this message across and put pressure on the government to become more involved in promoting the professions. †

And the air quality?

The main mission of the CSQ is to promote and defend the economic, professional and social interests of the members it represents, while respecting the fundamental values ​​of equality, solidarity, social justice, freedom, democracy and cooperation.

This content was produced by Le Devoir’s dedicated publishing team in conjunction with the advertiser. The editors of Le Devoir had no role in the production of this content.

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