In certain striking cegeps where the return to school for the winter 2012 session was achieved in June, rather than August, the rates of successful completion, while low, are less alarming than anticipated. But the failure and drop out rate has hit the most vulnerable students especially. Some are being shown the door.
The students of some cegeps have decided, democratically, to return to class shortly before bill 78 (now bill 12) was implemented. In Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Joliette, Sherbrooke and in the Outaouais, for example, where the students had to return to their session after 8,9,10 or maybe even 11 weeks of striking. Those students were able to complete their exams at the end of June. The tendency, as far as Le Devoir could determine? A slightly lower pass rate, but some worrying failures where students designated vulnerable in 2011 were concerned.
On the Joliette campus of the Regional Cegep of Lanaudiere, the strike lasted 11 weeks. Then the Students returned to classes democratically. From mid-May to June 28, they had to “put all their energies” into finishing the session, says the principal of the cegep, chantale Perreault. End result: An 85 percent pass rate, which is a drop of 2 percent when compared to winter of 2011. Even if she is proud of the result, Perreault is worried about those who did not come back and ended with a failing grade in more than four courses. Many of them, having had other failures in previous sessions, would have been expelled. But the principal has decided to be “flexible” in the enforcement of rules. Only ten students, in 2500, were expelled. The others were given a second chance on the condition that they pass in the fall.
At Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, they were less “flexible.” 224 students failed and were expelled at the end of this unique session, an increase of 50 percent compared to 2011. Either they were incapable of keeping up with the new routine, with nine weeks of classes wedged into six, with extended days and an accelerated schedule of assignments. Or they never came back to class after the strike. “They have the right to appeal this decision,” explains Lucie Lahaie, the interim director of studies. “We’ll decide on a case by case basis, but if the only reason mentioned is the strike, that won’t be enough” to overturn the decision warns the administrator who must deal with a cegep which is almost at full capacity. The expelled students can try again to gain admittance in six months. Others will choose another path, such as a degree in the professions.
The pass rate at this institution showed a drop like that at the cegep in Joliette, going from 83 to 81 percent. “Things turned out okay after all. You can see that the disparity in the pass rate is happily weaker than what we would have thought, which pleased us greatly, anyway,” says Lahaie. “Even if it was hard for the more vulnerable,” she concedes.
Rejean Montpetit an academic adviser at the same cegep says that “one can’t deny that the student movement has had an impact. The most vulnerable have paid a price. They didn’t necessarily have the support needed to succeed, even if from our side we did everything we could with the available resources.” The weaker students from high school, admitted anyway to cegep, could have found the bar too high, as well as those coping with learning disabilities, for example. In short, the most vulnerable clientele who may have been missing a couple of points to get a passing grade, despite all the efforts made. “In June, there are some who just cracked,” according to guidance counsellor Helene Trudeau. Stress and discouragement together with financial problems could have led some to “choose” to sacrifice some courses, she says.
Evenings, weekends: the students of Cegep de l’Outaouais scrambled to finish the winter session after the strike, explains the Director of Studies JoAnne Paradis. While the data on failure is unavailable, we know that 14 percent of students have reported in a poll that they won’t come back. For them it’s an automatic failure. “But you know, we’re happy! We were worried that it would be a quarter or a third who wouldn’t come back!” says Ms Paradis. According to her, the cegep won’t be sending any more letters of expulsion, despite everything.
At the Cegep of Sherbrooke, they haven’t calculated the pass rates yet. But the drop out rate varies from one program to another, according to the Principal Marie-France Belanger, ranging from 5 percent to more than 10 percent according to discipline. There too, they decided to be flexible with the rule that applies to students in situations of multiple failure and expulsion. “We’re taking it case by case, but we don’t want to unduly penalize people for the strike, explains Ms. Belanger. “We want to be fair and flexible.”