Speech addressed to Mr. Sébastien Proulx, Minister of Education
Public consultations - November 4, 2016
by PTU/SEP  |  11/10/2016

Here is the speech that was jointly prepared by Heidi Yetman, PTU President, and Peter Sutherland, MTA President. The speech was presented by Heidi to Mr. Sébastien Proulx, Minister of Education, during the public consultations that took place in Montreal on November 4th, 2016 :

"Monsieur le ministre de l'Éducation, Sébastien Proulx, c'est un honneur pour moi d'avoir l'occasion de m'adresser à vous aujourd'hui. Merci.

Mon nom est Heidi Yetman et j'ai enseigné dans une école secondaire du Québec depuis 22 ans. Récemment, j'ai été élue présidente du Syndicat des enseignants de Pearson, et aujourd'hui, je représente aussi l'Association des enseignants de Montréal lesquels, ensemble, représentent à peu près 5000 enseignantes et enseignants du secteur anglophone.

Mais, plus important encore, je suis mère de 2 adolescents qui fréquentent une école publique dans cette province.

J'aimerais parler de l'égalité d'accès à l'éducation et de la tâche toujours grandissante des enseignants.

Frances Wright, a social reformer of the eighteenth century, said: “Equality is the soul of liberty: there is, in fact, no liberty without it.” I believe that education should be about democracy and social equality.

Commençons par la petite enfance. Le rapport d'Oxfam Canada de 2016 identifie le programme de service de garde subventionné du Québec comme étant un pas vers l'avant pour atteindre l'égalité.

Since the implementation in 1997, the poverty rate of Quebec women has dropped from 36 per cent to 22 per cent. It also resulted in a 1.7 per cent increase in Quebec's GDP, and an increase in tax revenues that exceed the program's cost.

Malheureusement, en 2015, notre gouvernement a entamé un processus de démantèlement du programme en imposant une échelle variable et en exigeant une contribution additionnelle de la part des Québécois. Il s'agit ici d’une «pente glissante». Nous allons à reculons pour ce qui est de l'éducation à la petite enfance.

Early intervention is the key to educational success, especially for students of families in low socioeconomic situations.

Un autre facteur qui contribue à l'inégalité au Québec : les écoles privées subventionnées.

The tuition fees are relatively inexpensive for parents with middle to high incomes. Consequently, many parents have numerous choices for their children. Andy Hargreaves, adviser in education to the premier of Ontario, says that choice is bad : “Unbridled freedom leads to inequality of educational opportunity as the privileged have more choices compared to the poor”. Choices in education are creating a two-tier system, and placing a lot of stress on parents and on the public education system.

Ce qui m'amène à la réalité des enseignants, aujourd'hui, au Québec…

After teaching for over 20 years, you would tend to think that my job has become easier. However, it has not. Today, teachers are feeling the pressure. We are asked to do more and more each year. We are asked to participate in more and more committees (Governing Board, School Success Plan Committee, Anti-Bullying Committee, Special Needs Committee, Open House Committee, Digital Citizen Program Committee, Exam Committee, Professional Development Committee, Standards and Procedures for evaluation committee, etc...) Please, no more committees!

On nous demande de promouvoir nos écoles publiques parce qu'on doit rivaliser avec les écoles privées subventionnées par le gouvernement.

We do this through open houses, websites, special events, special programs, special outings, pamphlets and promoting our classes.

Competition between schools is bad. It does not improve performance but instead creates inequality and a greater degree of segregation. Competition has forced our schools to create special programs, which are costly for parents and create an imbalance between schools in our own school boards.

Étant donné le manque continuel de fonds pour les programmes dans nos écoles, on est forcé d'amasser de l'argent par l'entremise de demandes de subvention et de collecte de fonds. Encore ici, les collectes de fonds peuvent créer une inégalité dépendant de la démographie économique des communautés.

On nous demande d'évaluer les élèves de plus en plus. Les évaluations sont une cause d'anxiété et de stress chez les étudiants.

A recent long-term study done in Ontario stated that one third of all teens from the ages of 12 to 17 reported elevated levels of psychological distress. Research has also shown that academic stressors are the leading cause of stress in our children.

There has been an unnecessary emphasis placed on result-based management approaches. This narrow focus on targets detracts from the primary purpose of education that is for students to develop a critical mind and a broad base of knowledge and skills. This emphasis on data has led teachers to spend a lot of time in their classrooms preparing and administrating standardized exams.

In addition, the curriculum is so full that teachers have lost the leeway of being creative and more and more teachers are teaching to the exam.

Teachers need more autonomy in their classrooms. They are best suited to determine the appropriate methods of teaching and evaluating. It's the teacher that knows their students best.

Finalement, les enseignants doivent travailler de plus en plus avec les élèves à besoins particuliers. Un élève sur cinq requiert un plan d’intervention personnalisé. Les écoles publiques ont hérité du fardeau causé par la privatisation.

This means that we have to create individualized programs and tests, write individualized educational programs, deal with behavior and learning issues, extend our hours for remediation at lunch, before ,and after school, allow students more time to finish work and write tests.

Assessment and identification of special needs students must be simplified. Too often, teachers report that students who have been flagged as having difficulties must wait for months or even years before they can receive the proper assessments from professionals.

In Kindergarten and cycle one elementary, we need to create specialized closed classes, with low student-teacher ratios and proper support services, to help insure that students with special needs can succeed in the early years of school.

At the secondary level, more alternative pathways must be offered and supported and encouraged in areas where a need has been identified, particularly in low socioeconomic areas.

As a union leader, in the past couple of months, I have had the privilege to visit many schools. Teachers are already tired. Teachers are worried about the students in their classes. One teacher that I met broke down in tears when she was talking about the regular kids in her classroom who are the minority in the midst of special needs students. She felt that they were not getting the full education that they deserve. I told her: “It is not your fault, it's the system”. Teachers are working harder than ever and yet we feel that we are not providing students with what they need.

Hier, on publiait un article dans le journal intitulé: « Les écoles québécoises sont les plus inégalitaires au pays, selon un rapport ».

Si toutes les écoles étaient égales et qu'aucun élève n'était isolé, si on avait de vraies écoles communautaires et si on bénéficiait d'un réel investissement en éducation, nous pourrions alors affirmer que nous vivons dans une société démocratique fondée sur l'égalité. Une société dans laquelle chaque enfant aurait une chance égale, peu importe son sexe, son origine, sa réalité économique, ses déficiences ou ses forces.

En tant qu'enseignante, mère de famille et dirigeante syndicale, je vous demande d'investir dans notre future génération."

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