The digital faculty takes over in Quebec

School attendance may be mandatory by law, but more than 3,500 primary and secondary school students attend distance learning, even if they do not have any health problems that would expose them to COVID-19.

According to what Duty A three-year pilot project set up by Quebec opens the door to online learning for these thousands of selected students. In order for parents to qualify, they must show that a virtual school is the best choice for their children given a variety of circumstances: bullying at school, severe anxiety, behavioral or learning problems, autism, talent, distance from major centers, or participation in sports studios. or arts study programs requiring regular absenteeism.

This is a shift away from distance learning, which has only been offered for medical reasons since the beginning of the pandemic – and with a medical certificate. With this new pilot project, Quebec is now offering a virtual school to “other” children who are not currently in the form of a school. But under strict conditions.

The program provides distance learning “to students who cannot attend school because they must receive specialized health care or social services,” explains Alain Sans Cartier, Deputy Minister of Education, sent to the virtual school set up under Act no. three-year pilot project.

“The choice to use such services remotely in these situations must be based on an analysis of the individual needs of each of the students concerned,” he adds.

The Ministry of Education states that, within the framework of 56 pilot projects, approximately 3,500 primary and secondary school pupils attend courses remotely. This initiative (September 2021 to June 2024) is part of the Digital Agenda, which aims to “support the deployment of distance learning (FAD) in primary and secondary education. […] The conclusions of this project will contribute to defining the direction of the ministry in the future. »

Académie Juillet, a private primary school in Candiac, Montérégie, is one of the facilities authorized to expand its online courses as part of a pilot project. The academy has created a formal virtual school that can accommodate 16 third, fourth, fifth and sixth year students. They are grouped into one class. The teacher lives in La Baie, Saguenay. Students live in 16 different cities.

“It simply came to our notice then. We see a significant improvement in the motivation and success of our virtual school students, “says Julie Gagné, Deputy Director of the Juillet Academy.

“We are realistic, we know that face to face is good. Our goal is to bring together students we have lost in the educational network. If we can give them a positive experience for a year or two and then return to school in the present, the better, ”he adds.

Students under supervision

The parents of the virtual school students are excited. Vanessa Munoz notes that distance education is tailor-made for the needs of her 10-year-old daughter. This mildly autistic student experienced harassment at her neighborhood school in Laurentians, north of Montreal.

The girl is single, but needs support in class. However, his public school lacked professional service. Vanessa Munoz believes that her daughter is better supervised with a virtual school. He appreciates the availability and helpfulness of the home teacher, who has time to devote to each of the students.

“My daughter can focus on the material she has to learn. Ordinary schools are not suitable for children who are a little different. If you don’t “fit” into the form, you don’t have an education that suits your needs, “mourns the mother of the family.

Hugo Vézina has also noticed an improvement in the morale of his 9-year-old son since he took all his courses online. The boy was bullied at school, but “my phone calls were never taken seriously,” he says. The virtual school also offers better supervision of a boy who needs close monitoring to succeed, notes the father, who lives in Chaudière-Appalaches, south of Quebec.

Although satisfied, both parents point out that the $ 6,795 per year fees at the July Academy represent a significant amount compared to the free state school. They want the public network to be more open to tailor-made solutions for students with special needs. A virtual school is one of these innovative ideas.

“I see it as a salvation. We have students who have failed at school and for whom distance learning is a stepping stone to returning to a face-to-face meeting, ”says Maryline Dallaire, a teacher at 16 July Academy virtual school students.

Impression is heard when she says that one of her students, who had great difficulty reading, can now read the instructions given to all the children in the class. Or by evoking this little girl who confided in the school context “she feels in her place for the first time in her life”.

“I have time to clearly identify the interests of my students. We discuss, we share. I’m very happy to be able to get their attention, “says the 30-year-old teacher, a mother of three.

The blind spot of the virtual school is the lack of socialization with real people, and not through the embedded screen, believes Maryline Dallaire. “Kids can play with their neighbors, but it’s not like school,” he says.

Temporary solution

This lack of socialization is far from unofficial, but a major shortcoming in distance education, recalls Steve Bissonnette, a professor in the Department of Education at TELUQ. Without breaks, extracurricular activities and limited virtual interactions, children do not have access to one of the main missions of education – to know life in society.

The professor is well placed to talk about the virtual school: he teaches at a university set up specifically to offer distance learning courses. “This model is intended for autonomous and responsible adults, not for primary school children,” says Mr Bissonnette.

He dares to believe that Quebec will avoid the pitfalls of large virtual schools, which are a “monumental failure” in the United States. “Researchers have recommended a moratorium to stop the development of this type of school in the United States, the results are so bad,” he says.

In an ideal world, a virtual school is the “last resort” in a crisis situation, such as the subsequent waves of a pandemic. “Distance learning is better than none. If used well and temporarily, I think it has a place. However, this should not be a whim of parents who think it is better for their child in the long run, ”says Steve Bissonnette.

Even bullied students are at risk of being expelled from school for an extended period of time, he said. “Isolation of a child does not allow him to develop means to solve his problems. If we take him out of school [en lui enseignant à distance] or if we change school, bullying is likely to start again when it returns to society. You have to teach him ways to react so he doesn’t fall back into the same pattern. »

See in video

Leave a Comment