Montreal, February 23, 2011 – The Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) praised the inaugural speech delivered by Premier Jean Charest this afternoon for targeting education as the first of five priorities in Quebec’s move towards growth and development. QESBA President Debbie Horrocks tempered that praise with a condition, however: that the government back up those words by giving school boards the freedom and the flexibility to turn today’s promises into meaningful programs towards greater student success.
The Premier’s ambitious proposals on education include:
- the creation, in French public schools across Quebec, of a half-year intensive English second-language stream at Grade 6 , with English and French school boards working together to deliver the program
- the provision of a Smartboard to every Quebec classroom and a laptop computer for every teacher;
- government funding for school sports facilities upgrades and sports uniforms.
“The Premier properly identified bilingualism as a key target for all Quebecers today,” QESBA President Debbie Horrocks noted. “That’s a laudable and realistic goal; it’s essential to the future of young Quebecers of every origin. Our English school boards are world leaders in second-language teaching, and we can be an essential partner to Quebec’s French school network in reaching this goal. We trust that this government will commit its clear support to helping us work with our teachers to put this goal into practice. Furthermore, we expect to be given the room and the flexibility to take the lead in designing these exchanges with our francophone partners, and in a way that will benefit our English public school students.”
With respect to the promise of technology investments in education, QESBA will be waiting for a key detail: Will school boards be invited, when they deem necessary, to redirect these proposed resources to better meet this government objective? “Smartboards and laptops are pieces of hardware, they don’t produce engaged students, they don’t, in and of themselves, make better teachers,” explained QESBA Vice-President Carolyn Curiale. “Our school boards are making enormous progress in teaching students for the 21st century. Many of our classes already have Smartboards, many progressive teachers don’t need or want laptops to make them excellent or progressive educators. We take this announcement from the Premier as a commitment to strengthening and modernizing our classroom responses to a changing world. That is a positive message; but our member boards can best identify the tools and the strategies to get us there. Don’t lock us into a measure that is too inflexible to work for the best of our children.”
Finally, the Premier focused on strengthening school sports. Again, QESBA welcomed the sentiment, and called for flexible implementation. “The Premier is right: respectful, disciplined and inclusive schools encourage our students, and inspire them towards success,” President Horrocks concluded. “Again, flexibility is the key; the answer will not always be a new sports uniform, however. Some of our boards cover enormous territories; current transportation funding rules don’t allow students the flexibility of staying after school to participate in school sports. Here’s another example where the challenge cannot be met by a one-size-fits all solution. Let’s build together on the ideas behind this announcement, with educators offering the locally-tailored strategies and solutions to get the job done.”