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Pascale Breton July 10 2012
The strike that has divided the reds and the greens still risks leaving long-lasting consequences, not only among the students, but also with professors and administrative personnel.
Teachers are seeing the month of August’s arrival with apprehension. The courses of the winter semester have to resume in the cégeps and universities touched by the strike. It’s a real headache to renvision the course plans without reducing the education of future graduates – without counting that no one knows if the classes will really and truly be able to restart because the threat of resuming the student strike is still hangs in the air.
The students are the big losers of the catch-up session proposed to save the winter semester. Condensing the material into only a few weeks, between mid-august and the end of September, the teachers fear they must cut corners.
The first strike votes were applied February 13th. When courses will restart, in the middle of August, some cégeps students will not have set foot in classes for six months. It will be difficult to restart classes where they have been stopped.
By virtue of the special law (78), the semester will consist of 12 weeks instead of the habitual 16. In the facts, the professors will have to condense their course plans to teach all of the material between mid-august and the end of September, seven weeks maximum.
“We have to start at zero”, worriedly confirmed Vincent Fortier, union representative at College de Valleyfield, one of the most badly hit by the strike.
No matter what, at the end of their classes the students will have to master the competencies demanded by the ministry of eduction. Certain notions will then have to be abandoned and time in class optimized. When all is said and done, the quality of education will be effected.
“Giving a grade of 60% to students because they have achieved the competency, that’s one thing. But in a normal situation, the student who will achieve 60% would have had 75% or 80%. The would have been much more competent”, asserts Mr. Fortier.
Like many of his colleagues, he is chocked to hear elected officials or administrators maintain that the diplomas will have the same value as those of the other cohorts. That will not be the case, according to him.
The fall semester, which will begin in October, will also be cut short by several weeks. The majority of cégeps have planned a 13 week calendar.
A student who wouldn’t may not understand a basic concept because it will have been seen too quickly risks carrying this gap for the duration of their education. In certain disciplines like sciences or accounting, the impact could be very important.
“The winter semester will still be third-rate. These youth will be handicapped a lot”, believes Chantal Malouin, teacher in administrative techniques at College du Valleyfield.
A true marathon is taking shape for studients, agrees the president of the Fédération nationale des enseignantes et enseignants du Québec (FNEEQ), Caroline Senneville. “It will be up to the professor to determine the most essential from the less essential and the superfluous, but it’s sure that there will be corners cut.”
The situation risks being even more difficult for youth who arrive from high school. It’s in effect in the first semester that there are the most drop-outs,” she clarifies. “The passing from high school to college is something delicate. […] I am sure that there will be pedagogical repercussions.”
French teacher at the cegep of Saint-Jerome, Chantale Savard has worked with colleagues from her department throughout the last few weeks to find a way to reduce the education time by almost 14 hours, all while limiting the damages.
For example, the obligatory oral presentation will be transformed into a round table, and certain dissertations will be able to be written at home. Despite the adjustments, it will no be the same thing.
“You can’t make illusions: 14 class hours less, that’s 14 hours less. I have to respect the estimate despite everything”, maintained Ms. Savard, who refuses however to talk about a “third-rate diploma”.
As for the Federation of cégeps, it’s reassuring. The teachers will over more tutoring to students who show certain difficulties. The number of laboratories will be increased, and the readings and works to be done at home will be more numerous to compensate for the lost hours in class.
“There are solutions being put forward, that will never bring us to the ideal situation, but are sufficiently achievable for pedagogical value”, confirms Jean Beauchesne, president and general director of the Federation.
Certain cégeps have chosen to lengthen school days until 8:00PM. Others may be able to give classes on the weekend. Reading week (a week without classes) has also been abolished.
“The biggest problem is that the youth will be wiped”, indicates Chantal Malouin, teacher of administrative techniques at College de Valleyfield. She also indicates that many cégep students don’t have the option of working full time to pay for their studies. They will therefore lack time and become exhausted.
Each semester, the teachers see students in tears surge into their offices, completely exhausted, tells Ms. Malouin. This time, they will do practically three semesters in one year. “They’re being burned and left, and the professors too.”
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English. These are amateur translations; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may still leave something to be desired. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us at email@example.com. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.