The tough challenge of advising the state

A few weeks before his departure, in a review interview with The pressWould the outgoing chair of the High Council of Education, Maryse Lassonde, want the government to listen more to the recommendations of its own experts

Posted at 8:00am

Hugo Pilon Larose

Hugo Pilon Larose
The press

(Quebec) The issue caused a stir in the spring. The Legault government is now imposing a six-month deadline for newcomers to learn French. After that, the state (with a few exceptions) will stop communicating with them in English. But is six months enough?

The outgoing chair of the Higher Education Council, Maryse Lassonde, does not believe so. In fact, she is sure, and she has told the government so. In vain.

Heading a body that emerged from the Quiet Revolution, created in 1964 by Quebec after the submission of the Parent Commission on Education report, she even warned the minister responsible for reforming Bill 101, Simon Jolin-Barrette , that this term was too short.

To learn in francization courses, in the best of all possible worlds, it is a year. And that’s a minimum.

Maryse Lassonde, outgoing president of the High Council of Education

Here, according to M.me Lassonde, a concrete example where the Council – whose mission is to advise (and influence) the government on the state and educational needs – failed to get its message across. “Our opinions, what I realize is that it may take several years before it can get into the operationalization of the machine [gouvernementale] ‘ she notes.

She wants her successor to establish more links with ministries other than those of Education and Higher Education.

Known issues

Maryse Lassonde, a specialist in pediatric neuropsychology, professor emeritus in the Department of Psychology at the University of Montreal, leaves her mandate at the head of the Supreme Council of Education with one certainty: the government must make the system more flexible and tackle it faster not later, the consequences of separating high school students between the “regular” public, the enriched public and the private network. Issues that could fuel debate several months before the next election.

“Research shows that only 15% of those who come from the ‘regular’ public move on to university. The share is 51% [pour les finissants] of the wealthy public and over 60% in the private sector. […] It is not normal. We have to tackle this problem so that there are equal opportunities’, she denounces.

mme Lassonde also believes that the high school pathway is too rigid for children. “From the 3e high school, you decide to choose a subject and your career choices are determined by it. But you’re too young to do that. There really needs to be more flexibility at all levels,” she complains.

What the pandemic has taught us

Chairman of the Board of Directors in the Middle of a Pandemic, Mrs.me Lassonde, in turn, says COVID-19 has “exacerbated all the problems that already existed” [dans le réseau de l’éducation] and that we have been denouncing for several years”.

“Whether it’s socioeconomic inequalities reflected in the education system, private schools quickly turned to tablets and distance learning, while public schools took longer to adapt,” she illustrates.

Maryse Lassonde was also surprised by the magnitude of the mental health crisis in Quebec schools. “The numbers were outrageous. [Des] primary school children who suffered from distress, anxiety, children who used three drugs in primary school, antidepressants, anxiolytics or others. †

For me it was a shock.

Maryse Lassonde, on student mental health numbers

“I can’t just blame the education system in Quebec. It is a worldwide fact. What happened here happened elsewhere. But we want to make the system more resilient and resilient, because it could happen again. It is important to recognize the weaknesses and deal with them as quickly as possible,” continues Ms.me welding.

A departure against a background of worry

On leaving the High Council of Education, Maryse Lassonde is concerned about the rise of groups questioning the principles of inclusion, equality and diversity in the university world. This spring, the case for a Canada Research Chair position, where the vacancy provided that only candidates of diversity, indigenous nation, with disabilities, and women would be interviewed, sparked a variety of criticisms.

“Do you know that currently, in Quebec, only a third of university professors are women? Currently, and for the same age group. It’s not a matter of generation. So there is still a problem,” recalls M . himselfme welding.

“It’s not because we don’t want men anymore. The men, they will still be there. At the universities, they are two-thirds there,” she adds.

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